If you ever wondered about the importance of working with young people, the latest report from the Prince's Trust will leave you with little doubt. The 2019 Youth Index report serves to underline what we know to be true - our young people, or at least many of them, are struggling with issues like self-doubt, value and worth at unprecedentedly low levels and social media - although not entirely to be blame, is a large part of the problem. We are breeding a generation of anxious young adults.
The report makes for sober reading. Suicide is on the increase as young people struggle to find meaning; up from 3 young people in 100,000 in 2010 to 5 young people in 100,000 today. Furthermore, young people and issues relating to mental wellbeing at unprecedented levels as is shown in the report www.princes-trust.org.uk/ .
Now let’s be honest, life is complex for young people - much more so than the era I grew up in. Societal fragmentation has in many respects, eroded the foundations of security required for maturing into adulthood. Boundaries that are easily broken or non-existent hinder development by eliminating the security they bring in the framework of emotional, spiritual and physical development. This combined with the comparison culture of Instagram, Facebook and the like serve further to compound emotional wellbeing at a time when young people are struggling with their own identity.
Any level of engagement with young people reveals one thing - our investment in them needs to increase in this new world not decrease. The complexity of identity in an emotionally fragile society calls for us all to step up and not step back in our commitment to the young. This makes sense at every level, not least of which is the stability we can bring to the young person themselves.
As Nick Stace, UK chief executive of The Prince's Trust said, 'Young people are critical to the future success of this country, but they'll only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms. It is therefore a moral and economic imperative that employers, government, charities and wider communities put the needs of young people centre stage.'
A young person entering adulthood with a more rounded view of love, acceptance, value, resilience, and an appreciation of what creates personal confidence can only serve to create communities in which they will flourish. With community centres in decline, uniformed organisations losing kudos and youth groups underfunded we might well stop and ask some brave questions, like, What type of future do we want to create? Our young people need and deserve our support and how they will receive this needs to be one of our top priorities. We need a nation of adults who will take action and support that delivers a message that we love you and believe in you and are prepared to put our time, money and energy where it’s really needed. This is not a responsibility we can easily abdicate - we must all be engaged in seeking solutions to an epidemic of anxiety amongst the young - and Faith communities such as my own need to pick up the challenge and seek resolve in being part of the answer.