Home Mental Health & Well-Being Stress Awareness Month – New Data Shows More Young People Are Struggling with Stress, Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation

Stress Awareness Month – New Data Shows More Young People Are Struggling with Stress, Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation

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Youth charity The Mix is releasing a new report which tracks the issues young people are seeking support for on its helpline and analyses the reasons behind these trends. The data is completely anonymous and is based on 3,861 helpline cases between July and December 2021.

Cases of stress have increased on The Mix’s helpline

On Stress Awareness Month, The Mix is reporting that increases in thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation on its helpline were accompanied by an increase in cases mentioning stress, suggesting a correlation between the issues. The number of cases mentioning stress has grown significantly from Q3, when they accounted for 4.1% (80 cases) to 6.3% in Q4 (108 cases).

Following a decrease over the summer holidays in Q3 of 2021, the cases mentioning exam stress almost doubled in Q4, with 2.6% of cases (44 cases) mentioning exam stress. Conversations with young people showed that those who experienced exam pressure were concerned with their performance at school and in exams.

Many young people mentioned that they constantly compared their performance with other students and found college work difficult. Feelings of not being good enough, being concerned with grades dropping and finding it difficult to balance college and work were also mentioned. For some young people, this was worsened by the need to meet their parents’ expectations of their college performances.  

Additionally, some students struggled with lack of motivation to study, being too tired to study and depression and anxiety affecting their education.

An increase in cases of suicidal ideation

The report shows that calls about suicide and self-harm are on the rise, with young people mentioning suicidal thoughts accounting for 21.9% of all cases between September and December 2021 (a dramatic increase of 7.3 percentage points from the same period in 2020).

Analysis of the conversations shows that for many young people, suicidal thoughts affect them for a long time period. Some young people mentioned that they had previously experienced suicidal thoughts, and those who had an intention to act on thoughts of suicide in the past mentioned a likelihood of acting again on those thoughts.

An increase in cases of self-harm

Helpline calls mentioning self-harm accounted for 13.2% of all cases on the helpline between September and December 2021. This represents a statistically significant 3.5 percentage point increase compared to the same period a year ago.

Conversations with young people revealed that many attributed thoughts of self-harm to family problems or challenges, with cases mentioning family issues also on the increase in Q4 of 2021. Other reasons contributing to young people self-harming included:

  • Work-related stress
  • Issues around further education or school
  •  Feeling low or depressed
  •  Concerns relating to the pandemic and fear of becoming ill
  •  Being a victim of abuse
  •  Money problems
  •  Worries about future
  •  Bullying
  •  Disability

There was also a clear connection between calls mentioning self-harm and those mentioning suicidal thoughts, suggesting that the factors affecting both issues are very similar.

Other trends on The Mix’s helpline

  • The arrival of the winter months and a new Omicron variant coincided with a dramatic rise in cases discussing depression in Q4 of 2021, with a 5.1pp increase compared to Q3 of 2021(24.9%). Conversations with young people revealed that the pandemic contributed to a spike in cases mentioning anxiety or depression.
  • Feelings of loneliness, the death of a family member or relative, and worries about friends’ self- harming linked to the pandemic were among the reasons contributing to depression and anxiety. 
  • In Q4 of 2021, cases of bullying have risen sharply, reaching 3.4%. Between Q4 of 2020 and Q4 of 2021, the cases have risen significantly by 1.2pp.
  • The conversations about bullying show that young people believe their parents are not aware of the impact of verbal abuse on their mental health. 
  • Some young people mentioned experiencing verbal bullying from their parents and family members.
  • Most young people discussing alcohol mentioned worry over family members’ current alcoholic tendencies, while some mentioned traumatic childhood experiences linked to parents’ alcohol problems.

Leon White, head of services at The Mix: ‘This unique insight into our helpline data is hugely important, as it shows us the complexity of young people’s needs and how overwhelmed and at risk, they can be from them. The number of young people self-harming and experiencing suicidal thoughts is extremely worrying and shows just how urgently our services are needed.’

‘Through our helpline service, we can empower young people with the space and resources they need to help them manage their mental health and signpost them to the next steps towards long-term support. We urge parents, teachers and employers to share The Mix’s services with young people and let them know that we’re here to support them with any issue they are experiencing.’

The Mix is encouraging young people and those who support them to get in touch with The Mix’s free and confidential services, which offer life-saving and anonymous support on any and every issue.

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