Do young people have the assets for a healthy future?

Read the views of two participants of the Young people’s future health inquiry site visits

22 November 2018

The Health Foundation’s Young people’s future health inquiry aims to build an understanding of the influences affecting the future health of young people. The inquiry is exploring what support 12 to 24 year olds need to enter adulthood with the core building blocks for a healthy future. These building blocks include appropriate skills and qualifications, personal connections and financial, practical and emotional support. 

Over 600 young people aged between 16 and 24 years took part in site visits organised by the Health Foundation to help us understand what life is like for young people today. In this blog, Bethan and Shazia, two of the inquiry’s participants, share their experiences growing up in Denbighshire and Bradford.

Denbighshire: Bethan, 16

The inquiry in Denbighshire involved a group of young people aged 14 to 24 who met to talk about experiences, both negative and positive, of living in our area. We visited other young people from schools, colleges and youth groups, and ran a workshop to gather data. At the end, we met with people from all over the UK, shared our findings and discussed how to change Denbighshire for a better future.

We discussed four main factors. They were:

  • financial and practical support 
  • emotional support
  • personal connections 
  • appropriate skills and qualifications. 

I live in a rural area of Denbighshire, so I took the opportunity to try and express the difficulties of living in the middle of nowhere. In my neighbourhood, there are just four buses a day that go to town (where I could get a job), yet I still have to rely on my parents to take me to work because the last bus runs at 18.00. If my parents can’t take me, I can’t go to work, and therefore can’t earn money to go out and enjoy my childhood. I recommended trying to arrange cheap transport for young people to get to and from work, which wouldn’t stop until after 11 pm. 

I also took interest in the emotional support being offered in Denbighshire. We found out that most young people only got the help they needed when they hit rock bottom. This was due to them not knowing where to get help and that agencies had waiting lists of up to 3 years. In this time, conditions worsen and can force young people to take matters into their own hands. Many young people are unaware what the signs of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness are, so they may not speak up. 

During the visit, we discussed how school could play a part in young people being self-conscious about mental illness. The privacy of students often isn’t respected - in some schools, private matters are discussed in hallways, or clearly stated on the register for the whole class to see. 

We found many ways these issues could be improved:

  • Mental health services could be joined in one building, with a few sites around Denbighshire. It would be a one-stop place that everyone knows the location of and you would be able to go in, talk to someone, and receive help straight away.
  • Young people sometimes don't understand what they are going through. If mental health was taught in PSHE (personal, social and health education), we might be more open to talk about it, and this could save lives.
  • Support lines should be advertised more – even a private social media channel to just chat.
  • People who can help need to gain trust, while also having time for everyone. More people should be hired in schools, or mental health training should be given to teachers as they already have the students’ trust.
  • There should be more events where people can learn about emotional support, to make it easier to understand.
  • There should be a space led by young people – somewhere to laugh and cry. We need more spaces where young people can be expressive.
  • We should stop stigmatising and punishing young people for their mental and behavioural problems, and help them instead.
  • Schools should make sure that student mental health stays private.

By focusing on just one of these issues, we could help young people have the life they deserve in Denbighshire.

Bradford: Shazia, 23

Bradford is one of the youngest cities in England. Like every city in the world, there are positives and negatives associated with it. A few months ago, the young people of Bradford partnered with the Health Foundation and Leaders Unlocked to discuss what they felt about the city they live in. There were many topics discussed and the group was encouraged to be honest about their experiences.

Bradford is a home to a university and college that offer opportunities to develop as an academic, but there were discussions about Bradford needing to be a hub for the arts too. Many artistic or catering courses aren’t offered in Bradford – if there was a young adult who wished to study hospitality, they’d have to go elsewhere, rather than study in their home town. Our discussion showed that more people from Bradford would study at the university if their preferred courses were on offer. 

As a team, we also discussed the lack of mental health services and financial support. Though support for mental health is a national issue, young people in Bradford often wait on long lists to get help. We felt there was a lack of communication between schools and mental health organisations. 

The initiative of the Young people's future health inquiry is important because it gives us a chance to openly speak about our experiences – the good and the bad. The people of Bradford have a lot of pride and we have many different communities living together. There is vibrancy in these communities, but the city needs to unify to progress further in all fields. The young people of Bradford believe unity comes from open discussion, discussing our differences and coming together as a society to tackle the factors that affect us. We need to dismiss the idea that Bradford isn’t a city worth visiting. 

Find out more

The Health Foundation recently published a full report, A place to grow, on the Young people’s future health inquiry site visits. The inquiry will conclude with policy analysis and the development of recommendations in 2019. Sign up to our Young people’s future health inquiry mailing list to stay updated on the work of the inquiry.

Further reading

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Do young people have the assets for a healthy future?

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