Blog from Matthew Scott, APCC Mental Health Lead and Kent PCC:
Earlier this year, in one of the biggest youth engagement exercises of its kind, almost 7,000 young people from more than 100 schools across Kent, told me their experiences of cyber-bullying. The headlines made for worrying reading:
We have a generation of young people who can be subjected to hate and distress – anytime, anywhere. Many are loathe to seek help or even remove themselves from the situation. The changing ways in which young people communicate are having serious implications on their mental health. And that is on top of the traditional ‘growing pains’ like exam stress, body image and money worries.
Which is where Police and Crime Commissioners and other community safety leaders come in. Not only can we draw attention to the issues young people face, as I have, but also ensure there is adequate and appropriate support for them before situations escalate into something more sinister or tragic.
Here in Kent, for example, I have previously funded a mentoring project which helps thousands of disadvantaged or disengaged young people with the goal of reducing social isolation and minimising risk-taking behaviours. I also funded Kent Police’s Volunteer Police Cadets scheme which offers young people a safe environment to build confidence and learn new skills.
In Hampshire, Michael Lane’s Youth Commission have told him that mental healthis their biggest concern. As a result, the group is focusing on reducing the stigma that still surrounds mental health and is promoting the support available. Mental health has also ranked among the top concerns of Lorne Green’s Youth Commission in Norfolk, of Julia Mulligan’s in North Yorkshire and Paddy Tipping’s Nottinghamshire Youth Commission.
Similarly, in Cumbria, Peter McCall has called on schools to do more to help pupils help each other manage their mental health. His Youth Commission has been helping professionals deliver age-appropriate workshops to do just that.
Thanks to all this good work, today’s young people are perhaps better equipped to cope than their parents or grandparents ever were. Discussing your mental health is increasingly acceptable, regularly championed by celebrities and royalty. Even social media can itself be part of the solution; for as young people become ever-more connected they have increased access to like-minded people and others who have experienced and overcome similar problems.
Afflicted young people can share their frustrations and fears with peer-support networks on the other side of the world under a comforting cloak of anonymity. But curmudgeonly commentators, often quick to dismiss Millennials’ mental health concerns as an embodiment of the self-entitled snowflake generation, would do better to listen to them too.