Youth unemployment: the emotional and monetary cost

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Jobcentre plusGerman chancellor Angela Merkel has called it the 'biggest crisis facing Europe' and in Britain it sits at nearly 1 million: youth unemployment.


Last week 20 EU government heads and all of Europe's 28 labour ministers met in Berlin to deal with the problem of youth unemployment. There have been grim predictions that young people today, who are struggling to enter the job market despite high-level degrees or how are woefully under-employed, will live a poorer existence than their parents before them, both professionally and materially.

There is talk of a 'lost generation', which unfortunately is not hyperbole.

Britain has a government that is obsessed with ageing, with creating policies around pensions, homeownership and taxation that benefit those who have already saved, own homes and built substantial wealth. The younger generation are given increased student debts, an purposefully inflated housing market and a thin-on-the-ground jobs market thanks to countless rounds of spending cuts.

Everyone's belt is squeezed tight, but with youth unemployment at 1 million, it is fair to say those in their 20s are shouldering more than their fair share.

The political policies of the coalition are not just having an impact on their chance for a stable future; more worryingly, they are having a dramatic effect on the state of young peoples' mental health.

A report by mental health charity Mindfull shows that 850,000 children in the UK – that's one in three in every classroom – suffers from a mental health problem and many more suffer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The main reasons for feeling down were stress at school (54%), worrying about their future (53%), and not feeling like they are good enough (52%).

Mental health problems are the largest single cause of disability in the UK, making up 23% of the NHS burden, yet just 1% of its budget is spent on mental health problems, according to MP Nicky Morgan.

Mindfull is calling for a transformation in the way young people's mental health is dealt with, focusing on early prevention through mentoring and professional support.

If a change to the way we treat mental health illness doesn't change Mindfull estimates that the cost to the UK economy will total £89 million a year by 2026.

The UK economy can do without another cost to shoulder but a greater cost will be in the lost dreams and hopes of a generation that is maybe already lost.