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Getting help and feeling better

Find out why you might develop mental health problems as 

a young person, and where to turn for help and support.

If you're feeling anxious or depressed, or affected by eating disorders, it's a sign that you might be struggling with stresses or personal difficulties.

In the UK, about 20 per cent of people aged between 16 and 24 are thought to have a significant mental health problem.

Because adolescence and early adulthood are full of changes and challenges - sexuality, friendships and pressure to prove yourself in exams, for example - you can start to experience mental health problems around this age.

If you're dealing with other problems too, such as family conflict, bullying, bereavement, poverty, emotional deprivation or abuse, it can feel like a vulnerable time.

How do I know if I'm struggling?

You may be:

  • sad, withdrawn, and less interested in things you used to enjoy
  • worried and anxious
  • critical of yourself and the way you look
  • eating and sleeping much more, or much less, than in the past
  • harming yourself (for example, drinking too much or taking too many drugs, cutting yourself or intentionally putting yourself in dangerous or risky situations)
  • angry and aggressive
  • confused and acting in unfamiliar ways
  • avoiding college, work or social situations

Alcohol and drugs can seem to provide an escape from your problems, but can create an extra layer of difficulty if your use of them becomes excessive.

What should I do to get help?

  • talk to someone you trust (though you might not feel able to trust anyone)
  • see your GP because they’re there to help you, they won’t judge you and will be able to refer you for appropriate, specialized help
  • use the internet to find out what might help you, there are useful links on the right of this page

Why is this happening now?

Your self-image begins to take shape during adolescence, and if you haven’t experienced stable or loving relationships in your early life you might experience self-destructive thoughts and feelings.

If you have had emotional security from your family, plus education, social support and good physical health, your risk of mental distress ever reaching the point of breakdown is much less than for people who haven’t had this sort of stability.

Major changes, such as leaving home and the support of family and friends you grew up with, usually coincide with early adulthood, and can leave some people struggling to cope.

People who can help

If you’re worried about the stigma attached to mental illness it can be very difficult to ask for help. The thing to remember is that a lot can be done to prevent and treat mental health problems, but it’s crucial you get help early on.

There are lots of different people – in the NHS and private and voluntary organizations – who can offer you help and support.

What kinds of help might I be offered?

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • psychodynamic therapy
  • group therapy
  • medication (this can sometimes help in the short term, but many psychiatric medicines aren’t recommended for people under 18)
  • family therapy
  • counselling
  • creative therapies (art, music or dance)

Alongside counselling and therapies, anything that helps you find trusting relationships and the sense that you belong somewhere and that you’re valued will improve your mental health and wellbeing.

What can I do to keep myself mentally healthy?

  • make time to relax and enjoy yourselfspend time with friends, having fun
  • do something physical that you enjoy like playing football, dancing etc.
  • organize your time so you feel on top of the things you need to do
  • spend time every day thinking about the things you really like about yourself
  • take a thoughtful, compassionate attitude to yourself when you’re struggling with something, as you would with a friend
  • find things you can laugh about – humour is good for your physical and mental health.

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