Young people must be at the heart of Covid recovery – supporting their mental health is the first step
Being laid-off or unable to find work is a harmful blow to the confidence and self-worth of any young person, writes Cat Smith MP. | PA Images
The government has allowed a mental health crisis to overwhelm young people. It's vital they receive urgent support, especially as we look to rebuild.
This week, new research from the Prince’s Trust Youth Index exposed the ‘devastating toll’ the pandemic has taken on young people’s mental health. A staggering one in four young people feel unable to cope with life since the start of the pandemic, with this figure rising to 40 per cent among those not in work, education or training.
Months of continued lockdown has trapped many young people in insecure and unstable living situations, far away from their friends and family, devoid of routine or support. With headlines threatening a return to 1980s levels of youth unemployment, more than a third of young people say they have abandoned their aspirations for the year ahead.
Being laid-off or unable to find work is a harmful blow to the confidence and self-worth of any young person. Most concerningly, this blow can have long term consequences on young people’s mental health and their ability to get into work for many years to come.
The government has allowed a mental health crisis to overwhelm young people. After years of government underfunding and incompetence, mental health services are struggling under the pressure of a pandemic, and young people’s mental health is at an all-time low.
We know that the government’s only programme to support unemployed young people has reached just 3% of the 600,000 young people unemployed. Combined with the numerous last-minute U-turns over exams, BTEC assessments and university closures, young people have been let down across the board.
A sea change in the government’s approach to the vital mental health of young people is urgently needed
Indeed, according to the Prince’s Trust, more than one in three young people (39 per cent) need more support with their mental health since the pandemic started, yet a similar proportion (34 per cent) do not know where to turn if they need help. The research suggests that young people not in education, employment or training are even less likely to know where to get support with their mental health.
The Tories have a blind spot when it comes to the value and power of this group in society.
These young people are critical to the rebuilding of our country, and supporting their mental health is the first step in that journey.
Young people have played a crucial role during this crisis, not only in the health and social care sector, but in our shops, our public transport and as volunteers in the community, ensuring our society can continue to function.
But they are also the key workers of the future and must be recognised for their importance in our recovery from this crisis. The government must stop treating unemployed young people as an afterthought, and instead put young people at the heart of the UK’s post-pandemic recovery plans.
As young people battle a mental health crisis, the government must take action to provide the mental health support so urgently needed to ensure future generations can pull our country out of this crisis.
Indeed, the Prince’s Trust survey found that while the pandemic has taken its toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, many are positive for the year ahead and more motivated than ever to make a positive change for their future.
Young people across the UK have not given up. But a sea change in the Government’s approach to the vital mental health of young people is urgently needed.
Cat Smith is the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood and shadow minister for young people and voter engagement.