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Young people feeling lonely and isolated, poll suggests

By Alison Kershaw, PA Education Correspondent

Young people across the UK are feeling isolated and lonely, with no one to turn to to share their emotions and problems, a report has found.

One in four youngsters say they often feel left out, while a similar proportion feel isolated from others, it suggests.

And more than one in five believe that where they live has a negative impact on their mental health.

The major study, published by the Mental Health Foundation, warns that early life experiences, where youngsters live, exploring their identity as they grow up and pressures as they leave school are all factors that can pose a risk to good mental health.

But having supportive friends and families, and learning skills that help them to talk about and manage their feelings, as well as good support when problems arise, can help to protect young people's wellbeing.

The report, published as part of the Foundation's 70th anniversary, includes the findings of an online survey of more than 2,500 young people.

The poll found that just 54% of young adults feel able to speak about their emotions with others, while 14% say they do not have a trusted adult to go to for advice and support if they were experiencing a problem.

One in four (25%) say they often feel they lack companionship, while the same proportion say they often feel left out, and 27% feel isolated from others.

A fifth (21%) said that where they live has a negative impact on their mental health.

Just over half of those questioned were confident that they know where to go to find help if they are concerned about their mental health and wellbeing, while a just a third (34%) are confident that they would get the help they need.

The study says: "Children and young people's early life experiences, the areas they live in, the process of navigating and exploring their identity, and the pressures they experience as they leave school and enter the workplace can all be issues posing risks to good mental health.

"By contrast, having supportive families, friends and communities; the skills to understand, talk about and manage challenging feelings; adults to turn to that understand how they feel; and accessible and effective support if problems start to become overwhelming are key things that can promote and protect good mental health from childhood into young adulthood and beyond."

The study notes that the prevalence of mental health problems among children appears to be rising, with rates among five to 15-year-olds increasing from from 9.7% in 1999 to 10.1% in 2004 and to 11.2% in 2017.

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "Our research has painted a worrying picture of young people, with many reporting that they are feeling isolated or don't know where they can turn to if they experience emotional problems.

"Large numbers try to manage in silence. With only half of young people saying they can speak about their emotions with others, our society needs to go a lot further in tackling issues like stigma and opening up channels for young people to talk about their problems.

"The focus of this research is how to prevent young people feeling this way and to support their mental health by addressing these issues. Prevention is the best tool we have to alleviate these negative experiences by creating the conditions in which young people feel more connected, more able to talk about their problems, and to find help they can rely on."

- The online YouGov survey questioned 2,522 UK 16-25-year-olds in August.