MORE than one in five young people in Essex have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of being unemployed, a new report states.

Figures published today by the Prince’s Trust reveal the issues surrounding young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The report uncovers worrying statistics, including 17 per cent of youngsters in the county believe life is not worth living.

Twenty-two per cent of 16 to 25- year-olds said they had experienced at least one of the following as a result of being jobless: suicidal thoughts, self-harm, panic attacks, insomnia, and turning to alcohol or taking drugs. The national average is 19 per cent.

Sarah Underdown, 23, from Southend, is proof from the darkness of depression can come positive outcomes.

She is a qualified hairdresser and had been working at a salon for five years until her mental health became affected and she had to give up work.

She was anxious and suffered panic attacks, firstly feeling the strain of work, then feeling worse while unemployed.

Sarah became extremely anxious about meeting new people and going for interviews.

She said: “I felt so low and unsure where to turn. I was on medication to help with my depression, but being unemployed made me feel so much worse – I felt like a failure.

“I went to the Jobcentre, and while they really wanted to get me into employment, the jobs weren’t right and I knew they wouldn’t make me happy.

“I was also scared of how employers would react to my mental health. Being unemployed aggravated my depression and anxiety.”

The Jobcentre referred Sarah onto the Prince’s Trust team programme, a 12-week course that helps 16 to 25-year-olds get back into employment, education or training.

She said: “I loved the programme.

It brought out my confidence and made me feel like a better person. Because I aspired to work with young people it was great to work in a team. I found myself feeling so positive that I was able to emotionally support the other young people on the programme.”

As Sarah’s confidence grew she started to volunteer with a youth group for children as she was keen to get into working with kids.

She added: “As well as support with interview technique and CV writing, I did things like abseiling and rock climbing, which I would never have been able to do previously.

I really pushed myself.”

Now Sarah has started to work at a children’s home for youngsters aged 11 to 17 with emotional and behavioural problems.

She said: “My new job is so rewarding, and although it can be stressful, it keeps me motivated.

“The team programme was so amazing. I was thankful to be able to join the course and recommend it to others all the time.”

John O’Reilly, regional director of the Prince’s Trust in central England said: “In Essex, 1,775 young people are facing long-term unemployment and there is a real danger they will become hopeless, as well as jobless.

“Our research highlights unemployed young people are significantly less likely to ask for help if they are struggling to cope.

“Our message to them is organisations like the Prince’s Trust are supporting young people, helping them back into work, education or training. You are not alone and you need not struggle alone.”

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