TAKING place on Wednesday, October 10, World Mental Health Day will this year focus on young people and mental health in a changing world.

Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example changing schools, leaving home, and starting university or a new job.

For many, these are exciting times. They can also be times of stress and apprehension however. In some cases, if not recognised and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness. The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows.

"As we watch the news, scroll the internet and talk to family and friends around the world, it’s apparent that instability, violence and constant traumatic events are becoming daily occurrences," says World Federation for Mental Health president, Professor Alberto Trimboli. "Discrimination is out of the dark alleys and into the mainstream again and mental illness seems to be on the rise but many young people are not seeking treatment that could inevitably help lessen the severity of their illness and give them the tools to live a more productive and stable life. 

"Our young people today face constant stressors and challenges – happening in their own lives and in the world around them. Many of the issues facing our young people today, such as, bullying, suicide, the onset of major mental illnesses, the effects of trauma, and gender identity discrimination require our time and attention, global awareness and compassion, as well as new programs and guidelines on how we can protect and empower the next generation."

One place that has become more aware of the importance of young people's mental health is Wrexham's Glyndwr University who this year will mark World Mental Health Day with a series of free events throughout the day at the university, with members of the public being urged to come down and take part.

Being at university raises a number of unique challenges to students’ mental health and wellbeing. The years spent at university coincide with the peak age of onset for a range of mental health difficulties, with 75% of all mental health difficulties developing by mid-20s. Today’s generation of young adults are more likely to experience mental illness than previous generations. In the UK, 19% of 16–24 year olds experience a mental health condition.

Approximately 29% of students experience clinical levels of psychological distress, associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance use and personality disorders. Universities have, over the past five years, experienced significant increases in demand for counselling and disability services.

Senior Lecturer on the (Health) Programme, Justine Mason, said: “As a University, we know the importance of talking about mental health – we’ve been signed up to the Time to Change pledge for a year, which means that we have a series of champions staff and students can talk to regarding anything to do with mental health.

“We also recognise that we are part of a wider community, and wanted to open our doors and bring in some of the diverse range of organisations we have in North East Wales so we can share ideas, make new connections – and hopefully have fun too."

Community choir Pop Vox will be on hand to explain the benefits of singing for mental health. The choir, which rehearses at Glyndŵr every week, launched earlier this year in Wrexham with its leaders stressing the benefits of singing for health and self confidence.

Dementia Friendly Wrexham will be running sessions explaining how anyone can become a dementia friend and make a difference for people living with dementia. The short sessions have already been undertaken by a wide range of organisations and businesses around Wrexham – with the aim of securing ‘Dementia Friendly’ status for the town.

An exhibition by Same but Different, running in Oriel Sycharth will set out how young people live with rare diseases and help raise awareness of the person behind the disability.

And a range of local charities, organisations and groups will be on hand to talk about how volunteering can make a difference to the community.

Wrexham Glyndŵr University academics will also be on hand to run a variety of interactive talks and sessions – including art and mental health, the importance of wellbeing, and much more.

Student Advice and Guidance Manager Ruth Hodkinson added: “Universities across the UK are identifying the growing number of students experiencing mental health issues and Wrexham Glyndwr is no exception.

“Wrexham Glyndwr University works closely with students who may experience mental health difficulties to enable them to fulfil their potential.

"All students have a Personal Tutor who are able to signpost students to appropriate support including a Counselling Team, Health and Wellbeing Advisor or a Mental Health Specialist Mentor.

“A growing number of staff are trained in Mental Health First Aid and are able to recognise early signs of distress in order to gain support for the Student. Wrexham Glyndwr also supports students by offering specialist mentoring, one-to-one study skills support, individual examination arrangements and much more – we listen to the student and tailor our response to their needs.

“We have an on-going programme of events to raise awareness around mental health issues and to reduce the stigma associated with these difficulties. We also run many activities around wellbeing, supporting students to understand their own mental health and work on strategies to help stay healthy and happy.”