Survey: Social media harming young people’s mental health

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Social media is among major factors in mental ill-health among young people, who are increasingly turning to online support services for help, says the charity Young Minds.

More than a quarter of young people are worried that spending too much time online on social media networks is harming their mental health, a charity survey has found.

Young Minds surveyed more than 7,000 young people under the age of 25 and found that 27% believe they spend too much of their time on social media, which has having a “significant” negative affect on their mental well being.

Other significant factors in mental ill-health cited by young people include school pressure and dealing with traumatic experiences.

The survey also found that online support is a major source of help for young people while they waited for support, which indicates the high level of demand for website and app mental health resources aimed at children.

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Of those surveyed 53% said they went online for help while they waited for health service mental health support, while 71% relied on friends, 63% on parents and 56% on school staff, including school counselors.

Among respondents, two thirds (67%) said they were unable to fund mental health support when they need it, with many failing to meet the threshold for formal help.

Struggling to access support

The charity is calling for better support for children to help them tackle mental ill-health.

“These results show how hard it can be for young people to get help when they first start to struggle – and we know that the impact of leaving it too late can be devastating,” said Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds.

“We’re seeing welcome investment in NHS mental health services, and some positive initiatives in schools, but, with rising demand, it won’t be enough to meet the need.

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“It’s vital that we ensure that the right help is available when young people first need it. We know that local support, through youth clubs or local charities, can be incredibly helpful – but this is something only a small number of young people are able to get. It’s far better to make sure young people can get help early, rather than add to the numbers needing specialist support.

“The government must also take action to address the factors that can affect young people’s mental health – like academic pressure and how we support children who’ve lived through traumatic experiences.”

Links between children’s online use and mental health was highlighted by the Safer Online Gambling Group  last month. This raised fears that children are becoming at risk of gambling addiction through in app purchases.

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