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Your Voice, Your Vote: Mental health crisis in young people – BBC News

Image source, Family brochure

Screenshot, Amelia Butlin took her own life in her first year of university

  • Author, Nikki Fox and Laura Devlin
  • Role, BBC News, Bedfordshire

The family and friends of a student who took her own life have called on the next government to prioritise mental health support for young people in schools, colleges and universities.

Amelia Butlin, 19, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, was a cheerful, outgoing and popular teenager in her first year at university, with lots of friends and a loving family.

She had ADHD and suffered from anxiety and depression, and after the pandemic she found it difficult to separate herself from social media and her mobile phone. In October, she committed suicide.

“[Politicians] “We need to wake up to the mental health crisis we face,” said Amelia’s mother, Becci Butlin.

Image source, Nikki Fox/BBC

Screenshot, Becci Butlin said people’s ability to navigate the support available was also an issue.

“This generation is the first to use social media in incredible ways and with incredible dependence on it,” he added.

“They have all the stresses of life, they had a difficult teenage period with Covid and there are many more mental health issues to come.

“Nobody talks about it. It’s a much broader problem than is recognized.”

Naomi Woodford, a mental health support worker at Cedars Upper School in Leighton Buzzard, which Amelia attended, was among many people who contacted the BBC via Your voice, your vote to tell us that mental health is the most important issue for them during this election.

Ms Woodford works with children and teenagers, some of whom have been affected by Amelia’s death, and believes every school, college and university in the UK should have its own mental health service.

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She described the situation as a “national crisis” and expressed concern that out of 14 schools in Leighton Buzzard, only two or three have the resources to offer mental health support to pupils.

According to the Office for National Statistics, more people in England and Wales died by suicide in 2021 than in 2020.

The data showed that 6.9% more deaths by suicide were recorded than in 2020.

Image source, Family brochure

Screenshot, Amelia Butlin was among many young people affected by social media

‘Huge waiting lists’

Amelia’s mother said she was not aware of mental health care being a key priority for either major party, but believed the next government should focus on targeting schools and GPs to ensure those who need specialist care get a referral as soon as possible.

“The real problem is the complexity of getting the right help,” Butlin said.

“Schools are not equipped to help children and teenagers and Amelia had dropped out of school, so that’s even worse.

“If you go through the NHS you will find yourself with huge waiting lists, if you go privately there will be no one to guide you.”

Ms Butlin recently joined 25 of her daughter’s friends on a 15km (nine-mile) walk in memory of Amelia and to raise money for the suicide prevention charity. Campaign against miserable life

“We’ve seen the impact of suicide – it’s had an impact on his peer group and the community,” Butlin added.

“In tragic circumstances, it is important to bring people together to do something positive and tangible, and to focus on saving other lives.”

‘It tore us apart’

Image source, Nikki Fox/BBC

Screenshot, Alicia Down, Charlotte Millar and Emily Ferguson were friends of Amelia.

Alicia Down, 19, a friend of Amelia, said: “Amelia was the loss of our lives, it’s been heartbreaking.”

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“We have fought hard and that has a domino effect.

“When she passed away we all felt the same feelings of depression.

“Losing her has broken us all and ruined us, and she is constantly in our thoughts.”

Ms Down expressed concern about social media and its impact on young people’s confidence, saying schools and colleges were not equipped to offer support when people needed help.

If counseling was offered, she said, it was “six sessions and then you were gone.”

‘Not defined by a title’

Charlotte Millar, a 20-year-old university student, said many young people were unprepared for university life.

While her and Amelia’s circle of friends kept in touch and supported each other during the pandemic, they were then plunged into the stress of A-levels and moving to university.

“No matter how independent you think you are, you have no idea what awaits you in college,” she said.

“You have to make new friends, study and live alone.

“That’s my biggest stress, but you’re not defined by a title and it’s not talked about enough.”

She understood that asking for help was not easy, but universities could also be more flexible when students felt “overwhelmed.”

Image source, Nikki Fox/BBC

Screenshot, Amelia’s friends describe the 19-year-old as a cheerful, outgoing and popular teenager.

Amelia’s friend Emily Ferguson, 20, said she found it difficult to put her phone down and ignore social media.

“There’s so much pressure to be a certain way that it’s hard to feel like you’re OK the way you are,” she said.

“You always see people hanging out at university, but you don’t have to go to every college night, every party, you can just go home if you want.

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“A lot of people want to post about what they’re doing, but then they don’t appreciate the time they spend with whoever they’re with.

“You don’t have to prove it to the world: people don’t care that much.”

Image source, Richard Knights/BBC

Screenshot, Naomi Woodford has seen an increasing number of young people struggling to get by.

Ms Woodford said: “The community of Leighton Buzzard and Cedars has been deeply affected over the years by young people taking their own lives.

“We have seen an increase in the variety and number of mental health problems since the pandemic, along with exam stress, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders.

“We are in a national crisis, we cannot cling to a one-year, two-year or five-year plan, it has to happen now.

“We need emergency intervention, we need mental health services in all our schools, colleges and universities in the UK, and I will campaign for that to happen.”

What do the parties say?

Labour says it will introduce specialist mental health support for children and young people in all schools. It will recruit an additional 8,500 new staff to treat children and adults during our first term. Young Futures centres will provide freely accessible mental health services for children and young people in all communities.

The conservative party It wants drop-in centres for 11- to 25-year-olds in every community by 2030, and promises to extend mental health support teams to all schools by 2030. It will also step up the planned expansion of NHS talking therapies for people with anxiety, stress and depression.

The Liberal Democrats The party says it will create mental health centres and have a qualified mental health worker in every primary and secondary school. It will introduce a cabinet minister for youth and expand mental health services for young people up to the age of 25.

The Green Party He wants a councillor in every school and every sixth form, and says he will ensure people can access mental health counselling within 28 days. He wants to expand community mental health centres, invest £5bn in special needs education provision and regulate social media.

Reform of the United Kingdom He says he will launch research into the harm social media causes to children and promote the use of smartphones without apps. He claims that increasing employment will improve mental health.

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