THOUSANDS of young people in Scotland believe they have nothing to live for, and joblessness is having “devastating” effects on mental health, a new report warns.
The research, by the Prince’s Trust, found that long-term unemployed young people across the UK were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed antidepressants.
One in three (32 per cent) of this group said they had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24 per cent) had self-harmed. Overall, 6 per cent of young Scots questioned believed they had nothing to live for, rising to 9 per cent across the UK.
The charity said this amounted to more than three-quarters of a million young people in the UK feeling they had nothing to live for.
Figures for Scotland also found high numbers struggling with the impact of unemployment on their mental health.
Experts said the research proved joblessness was a public health issue that needed to be tackled urgently.
The Prince’s Trust Macquarie youth index was based on interviews with 2,161 young people aged 16 to 25 across the UK.
In Scotland, more than one in ten young people (13 per cent) said they had experienced symptoms such as self-harm, panic attacks, insomnia or excessive drinking and drug use as a direct result of unemployment.
The figure was higher in women, at 15 per cent compared with 11 per cent in young men.
The research found that more than one in four young people in Scotland (29 per cent) said they “always” or “often” felt down or depressed, compared with 37 per cent across the UK. This rose to 42 per cent for those in the UK who had been unemployed for six months or more.
One in five young people in Scotland (20 per cent) said they felt like an “outcast”, compared with 24 per cent across the UK. This increased to 39 per cent for the long-term unemployed.
The Prince’s Trust said figures showed a 243 per cent jump in the number of young people in Scotland claiming benefits for more than six months since the start of the recession.
The charity, which carried out the research alongside the Macquarie Group Foundation, called for more support from governments, health agencies and employers to fund their work with long-term unemployed young people who were also battling mental health problems.
They said with more support, they could help more young people to build up their self- esteem and move into work.
The charity plans to work with 8,000 young people across Scotland this year.
Allan Watt, director of the Prince’s Trust Scotland, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people. Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn’t worth living and unemployment clearly exacerbates this.
“While we welcome recent figures that show youth unemployment is decreasing in Scotland, the underlying problems affecting the thousands faced with a long-term struggle to find work must be addressed.
“Our message to them is this: organisations like the Prince’s Trust are supporting young people like you every day, helping them back into work, education or training and business. You are not alone and you need not struggle alone.”
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “This research proves unemployment is a public health issue. It is one that must be tackled urgently.
“Unemployed young people are struggling in many aspects of their lives, from their mental health to their relationships and their qualifications and we must act quickly to end this.”
Case study - Dylan Stack: ‘I was trapped in this hopeless circle’
Dylan Stack lost all motivation and thought he would never find work as he tried time and time again to get a job.
The 16-year-old from Glasgow struggled at school due to severe dyslexia and did not feel he had the right support. He left with few qualifications.
Dylan always loved cooking, but despite his enthusiasm he still struggled to get work. “I tried and tried to find a job, but I got knocked back due to lack of experience and qualifications. I really wanted to work, so found it really stressful,” he said. “I was trapped in this hopeless circle of everyone wanting me to have experience, but nobody willing to give me any. Life wasn’t good.”
His uncle suggested he get involved with the Prince’s Trust and he joined its Get Into Cooking programme. He learned new skills and gained the experience employers were looking for.
“As soon as I started the course I felt like all the stress had gone,” he said. “The experience I gained was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.”
Dylan now feels hopeful. “Being unemployed was an absolute nightmare. All I wanted was a chance to prove myself, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.
“The Prince’s Trust were the only ones who believed in me. They gave me a real chance to prove myself. My new dream is to go to Italy one day and cook there.”