Mental Illness Is a Serious Issue That We Must Learn to Address; the Impact of Unemployment on Young People Has Been Made Clear in a Report Showing One in Five Have Experienced Symptoms of Mental Illness. Education Editor Gareth Evans Argues This Is a Challenge for Society as Well as Wales' Schools

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

Mental Illness Is a Serious Issue That We Must Learn to Address; the Impact of Unemployment on Young People Has Been Made Clear in a Report Showing One in Five Have Experienced Symptoms of Mental Illness. Education Editor Gareth Evans Argues This Is a Challenge for Society as Well as Wales' Schools


Byline: Gareth Evans

CHRISTMAS and New Year is traditionally a time for eating, drinking and being merry. But for many of society's most vulnerable young people, the festive season will have been a much more sombre affair.

Figures published this week by the Prince's Trust put the struggle to find work into perspective. A survey of 16 to 25-year-olds in Wales found that more than one in five have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of unemployment.

According to the charity, young Welsh men are significantly more likely to be affected by mental illness than young women and hundreds of thousands within the UK feel they have nothing to live for.

Of those polled, 21% of jobless young people in Wales have experienced symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, or feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks. Many others have self-harmed, been prescribed anti-depressants and consumed large amounts of alcohol or taken drugs. Almost 40% of young people from Wales said they "always" or "often" feel down or depressed and more than one in four (28%) said they feel like an "outcast".

The report comes at a time when long-term youth unemployment has been on the rise, with Wales seeing a 212% increase since the beginning of the recession. Paying jobs are scarce and, in this age of austerity, people of all ages are finding work increasingly difficult to come by. That in itself is no great surprise.

Business leaders everywhere are feeling the pinch and, by tightening the purse strings, they are simply trying to weather a treacherous financial storm. But their predicament is no consolation for the thousands of young people - many of them incredibly well-trained - unable to take that first rung on the ladder.

It is a travesty that rising numbers of university graduates, who have given so much of their time and money to qualify, find the world of work so challenging to scale. The advent of spiralling tuition fees makes securing a job all the more pertinent and failure to do so must be very difficult to accept.

Paul Brown, Prince's Trust director, said: "We need to recognise that unemployment doesn't just lead to economic disadvantage for young people but [it] can scar them.

"There are a very large number of people still unemployed, lacking all hope for the future. We have a duty to make sure there's something to look forward to. …

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