More Than Words24 October 2017
The purpose of this research was to examine the harmful language and negative stereotypes faced by young people experiencing mental health difficulties.
For #IAMWHOLE 2017, YMCA undertook research into the harmful language and negative stereotypes faced by young people experiencing mental health difficulties.
Harmful language and negative stereotypes surrounding mental health difficulties infiltrate our everyday.
However, while often dismissed as ‘banter’ or ‘harmless’, speaking to young people reveals the very real impact that they are having on their lives.
As such, the experiences of young people all over the UK and Ireland reveal that they are scared to tell others about their mental health difficulties for fear of the reaction they will receive, whether that is abuse or dismissal.
The secrecy that ensues is delaying young people getting help, prolonging their symptoms, and in some cases, having a lasting impact on their lives.
Ending this secrecy and tackling the harmful language and negative stereotypes that surround mental health difficulties first requires them to be acknowledged.
Doing so requires individual recognition of the weight that our words carry, and the negative attachment that sits alongside them.
Tackling the negative language and harmful stereotypes that surround mental health difficulties is not an exercise in so-called ‘political correctness’, nor is it about merely appeasing those who are ‘overly sensitive’.
Instead, it is about creating a society in which it is no longer considered brave to speak out when experiencing mental health difficulties.
It is about creating a society in which mental health difficulties are normalised, but also respected, and young people with symptoms are given the help they need, when they need it.
In order for this to be realised, based on the views and experiences of those participating in this research, YMCA is calling for governments and decision makers across the UK and Ireland to:
- Require all young people to be educated on mental health awareness and understanding as part of the school curriculum
- Promote mental health peer-to-peer support programmes in schools and community settings
- Invest in youth and community services that provide informal education and positive activities around mental health
- Require all teachers and individuals frequently working with young people to be trained in recognising mental health and/or emotional wellbeing issues and know what to do about them
- Demand tougher action be taken to tackle bullying in schools and online
- Combat irresponsible reporting, and inaccurate portrayals, of mental health difficulties in the media, TV and films