Niamh's story: Causes of anxiety | Advice for young people | Jigsaw Online

Niamh's story: Causes of anxiety

Originally reported by RTE, Niamh, who is part of Jigsaw’s Youth Advisory Panel, was interviewed to discuss youth mental health in the context of her own life.

This conversation was sparked by the release of My World Survey 2, carried out by UCD in conjunction with Jigsaw. We surveyed more than 19,000 young people in Ireland. The survey found that 49% of adolescents and 58% of 18-25 year olds had experienced feelings of anxiety. This had increased since the first survey in 2012.

Niamh’s story

Niamh began having mental health difficulties when she was 12. She experiences anxiety, and has a disability which effects her vision. Niamh is 19 years old and is from Clondalkin, Dublin.

“I kind of started to understand what it [mental health] was and realising there was something a little bit different and not the same as everybody else in school,” she said.

Niamh said her anxiety issues were exacerbated by her disability.

“The likes of normal day (to day) stuff people don’t even have to think about, like getting the bus. My anxiety flares up cos I can’t see the number of the bus. So I don’t know if it’s my bus or the right bus.

“Obviously exam pressure would have been huge, and it’s huge for everyone, but I had an added pressure of can I actually see the numbers on the page in my maths exam … so it was exam pressure, stress, doubled. It was heightened, because of my disability as well,” she said.

Niamh is involved with her local youth service and has noted that where you come from can impact a young person’s mental health, in her experience.

She said: “The amount of young people [who] are facing problems at the moment is huge … I did my own survey in the youth service as part of my college studies and the stuff that young people the age of 8 to 18 is huge, nearly everybody that filled out the survey is dealing with mental health in some capacity.

“I also wrote the question ‘Do you think it’s a factor of being in Neilstown or not?’ and the majority of them said yes. That’s really worrying because they can already identify that there’s something wrong here and that’s why there’s something wrong in my head.”

It was heightened, because of my disability as well

Niamh, 19

Not just one thing

Niamh’s experience of anxiety is not unusual. It is very rarely just one thing that leads us to feel anxious. There are often a number of different factors that contribute. These can include our society or the area we live in. It might be the pressures we are facing, our own resources and experience of coping.

Often the dialogue around anxiety focuses on what the individual can do to manage the ‘symptoms’ of anxiety. There are many things we can do to cope with anxiety and deal with exam stress. However, we also need to look at how the systems around a young person can be changed to better support them. Things like improvements in the exam system or equal access to services for people with disabilities can help us move towards a society that is more supportive of the mental health of everyone.