Recently, I saw a photograph on the charity the Prince’s Trust Facebook page; the photo contains the following facts about depression and anxiety in young adults, linking the information to youth unemployment:
 Almost half of unemployed young people feel down or depressed, often or always.
 More than half of unemployed young people feel anxious about everyday situations.
 43 per cent of unemployed young people often feel isolated.
 More than 1 in 10 young people often feel too anxious to leave the house, and unemployed young people are two times more likely to feel like this.
 Unemployed young people are twice as likely as their peers to report that anxiety has stopped them from being able to find a job.
 46 per cent of unemployed young people avoid meeting new people.
 39 per cent of unemployed young people struggle to make eye contact, and;
 More than a third of unemployed young people report that anxiety has stopped them from looking after their health.

I found this information quite revealing, but not completely shocking. Having both suffered from depression and anxiety, and having to sign on at my local job centre during my gap year while I struggled and failed to find a job, I was inspired by the information from the Prince’s Trust and my own experiences to write an article about the matter. I personally believe that both youth unemployment and mental health illnesses in young people are highly important issues in society. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about youth unemployment and mental health illnesses in young people on various internet websites.

In terms of unemployment in young people, there are two significant definitions, one being youth unemployment which is the level of unemployment among young people (aged between 18 and 25), and the other being graduate unemployment which is the level of unemployment among university graduates. Unfortunately, youth unemployment increases the risk of a young person experiencing unemployment in adulthood. According to a government article ‘There were 208,100 people aged 18-24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in November 2014, 9,200 fewer than October 2014 and 115,700 fewer than in November 2013’. This fact could be linked to the Prince’s Trust concern that unemployed young people are too anxious to leave the house and are too anxious to look for a job.

As a young person with eight B’s and four C’s at GCSE level as well as a B, C and a D at A-Level, claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) often made me feel very down and upset, and highly anxious about how other people thought of me. I didn’t like going to the job centre each week, it was extremely demoralising and demotivating, and the staff there were actually quite unhelpful and didn’t seem to even want to help me find a job. Even when I inquired about interview practice, they said they were unable to help. Unfortunately, our generation is being described as a ‘lost generation’ because of the large numbers of unemployed young people.

Some of the causes of youth unemployment include:
 Lack of jobs.
 Young people lack the skills needed for jobs.
 Gaps between education and employment.
 Lack of (appropriate) qualifications.
 Young people’s expectations.
 Employers prefer to employ experienced workers.
 The increase in the retirement age.
 Young people’s welfare.
 Poor vocational options for young people, and;
 Employers’ perceptions of young people.

However my opinion is that it could be a good idea to teach in schools about applying for jobs, writing CVs and job interview techniques. I know that I, personally, would have found such education extremely useful when I was at school. In sixth form, as far as I know, the only focus was on helping students to write personal statements and to complete the UCAS application for university, there wasn’t really any support for those who didn’t want to go to university but wanted to go out and look for work after completing their A-Level studies. Obviously, this might be different for other people from other parts of the UK, or even from different countries. It would be interesting to have others share their thoughts and experiences on this matter.

The other matter I wish to address in this article is that of mental health illnesses (for example; depression and anxiety) in young people. While mental health illnesses can be linked to youth unemployment, I am addressing them as separate issues.

What does mental health mean? The word ‘mental’ means ‘of the mind’. It relates to your thoughts, feelings and understanding of yourself and the world around you. The word ‘health’ relates to the working order of your body and mind. So ‘mental health’ refers to the working order of your mind. Examples of mental health illnesses include depression and anxiety. These are the illnesses which I have had the most experience with. When we have problems with our mental health, we may feel sad, worried, anxious, angry, confused, hopeless, panicky and guilty.

Some of the causes of mental illnesses include stress, such as life changes, for example, the death of a loved one (bereavement). Other causes of stress include too much pressure from school, sixth form or college, or university, or from work. The pressures of finding a job can be extremely stressful for young people and may lead to mental health illnesses. I discovered the following quote on an AMH website:

‘In our modern society, young people are fed information which puts pressure on them to meet needs that are often unrealistic. They are inundated with images as to how they are meant to look, what they are meant to have and how they are meant to behave, all based on the assumption that this is important to life. If young people feel that they do not meet the images that are portrayed to them via the media or peers, they can often feel different, that they are not good enough or disadvantaged which, if not dealt with appropriately, can lead to depression as well as problems with self-esteem, and confidence’.

We live in an age where media is a major influence in everyday life, especially in the lives of young people. Young people are pressurised to feel the need to have expensive material items and when they cannot afford such items (for example, because they are unable to find a job), this can lead to them feeling depressed and anxious that the rest of society are judging them.

The Young Minds website states that ‘More than three quarters of a million young people believe they have nothing to live for… Long-term unemployed young people are twice as likely as their peers to believe they have nothing to live for’. I spoke to one young (female) person, aged 21 who has A-Levels and is currently studying towards an accountancy qualification after deciding not to go to university. She has been a volunteer, has had a part-time job and is due to start a full-time job, but she was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for around eight months which made her feel totally isolated and that she had lost all of her self-confidence. She also told me that she was taught the bare minimum at school about how to write a CV, and that she was not taught anything about mental health illnesses. She believes that learning more about her options (such as apprenticeships and other courses aside from university courses) would have been useful to her.

At school, we were not taught much if anything about mental health illnesses, which would have been useful knowledge to have in order to be able to understand the symptoms of failing mental health in ourselves or in others, so that we know how to help.

I strongly believe that the issues of youth unemployment and mental health illnesses in young people are important separate issues in today’s society, but they can also be directly linked to one another. Not having a job can cause a young person to feel extremely depressed and anxious, especially with the stigma associated with mental health in young people. When I was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, I was feeling very upset for quite a while before I started volunteering in a local Sue Ryder charity shop in order to boost my confidence and self-esteem and to help me gain valuable work experience. While it was the best thing I’ve ever done, it was still frustrating that everyone claimed that it wasn’t a ‘proper job’. My experiences with depression and also hypothyroidism have also been very challenging since being bereaved of my dad and throughout my experiences at both universities. Therefore, I strongly believe that young people today are faced with enormously difficult challenges, and being prejudiced against them just isn’t fair.

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