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What poverty means for children's mental health

There are many reasons young people aren't getting the mental health support they need. Some don't know where to look. Maybe they feel shy about opening up. Or in some cases, it's money. How might being from a poor background impact children's mental health?


Making ends meet

young girl on street looking plainly at camera

Poverty gap

Young people have a lot to deal with at the best of times. But the last few years have been especially tough. The recent rise in energy bills and food prices heap even more stress and worry on households struggling to keep themselves warm and fed.

Kaira, one of our mental health workers, explains ‘I think the society that we live in is becoming more and more separated as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.’ 

When young people come to our service they are often ‘feeling like they're worthless, or there are people that are doing better than them.’ 

Poverty and mental health

We try to remind everyone that they just need to go at their own pace

Digital divide

When mental health services couldn't operate face-to-face, many moved online. It created a digital divide.

‘Some don’t have a phone or a computer to access sessions. We try to get them support. Can they borrow their mum’s phone or a friend’s phone because they haven't got their own?' 

However, these won't be options for many young people. For those without access to a phone, credit, or laptop, support seems unavailable. 

smiling young man

Our work ending child poverty

Children should not be held back by poverty. We work hard to make sure families can keep their children healthy, happy and hopeful, even when money is tight.

Social media and self-care

Self-care can also be misrepresented in social media. Young people see their favourite influencers promoting £200 facemasks under the banner of well-being and self-care. 

Reframing what self-care means

‘There are many expensive things we have come to associate with well-being, which are not accessible to children in poverty.’

‘This is something we try to reframe. We tell them, you can also sit down for ten minutes, have a hot chocolate and a biscuit.’ 

'Also, sometimes young people lie and say their parent has a certain job when they don’t. I guess social media and their peers make them feel they have to lie about.’ 

We talk about what fits their lifestyle. We talk about what fits their lifestyle.

– Kaira

Rising costs and mental health

As the cost of living crisis hits families, even more children will be pushed into poverty. Many will take on their parents' worries. They might feel embarrassed, angry, scared. Children react differently. But they should all be able to get support if they need it. Poverty shouldn't be a barrier.

Our wellbeing drop-in services are free and young people can come in and talk any time. We also have wellbeing advice and tips for parents and young people. If children get support early on, we might be able to prevent a mental health crisis from happening.

Author: Edward Herbert