Half of Gen Z say their parents 'don't take my mental health concerns seriously', research shows - here are 3 ways to help support older children

And 53 per cent don't want their parents knowing they are meeting with a school counsellor or therapist

A mother consoling her teenage daughter during a therapy session
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes this can get lost in translation. With research showing that half of teens and young adults feel their parents don't take their mental health concerns seriously, we share how you can show your support.

The mental wellbeing of young people is a growing concern, particularly now that research has found one in five 16–25-year-olds miss school or work due to poor mental health. The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevalence of social media have both been widely discussed as potential culprits for a decline in youth mental health, after an NHS study found that rates of probable mental disorder in those aged 17 to 19 years rose from 1 in 10 in 2017 to 1 in 6 in 2020, and then to 1 in 4 in 2022.

Whatever the cause of this alarming rise, parents of teenagers and young adults will hope that their children can come to them with their problems, and look to the adults in their life for tips on how to manage stress and other negative emotions. However, this isn't always the case, as research has found that half of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) feel their parents don't take their mental health concerns seriously.

The study, which was carried out by Springtide Research Institute, surveyed 3,139 students in middle school, high school, and college in spring 2022 and discovered that 49 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement "My parents/guardians don’t take my mental health concerns seriously."

They also found that 49 per cent had talked to a mental health professional such as a therapist, counsellor, or psychologist in the last three months, and that 53 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement "I wouldn’t want my parents/guardians to know I am meeting with a school counsellor or therapist."

Students from marginalised groups are even more likely to say their parents don’t take their mental health concerns seriously, such as LGB+ students (52 per cent) compared to straight students (41 per cent), Black students (53 per cent) compared to White students (43 per cent), nonbinary students (57 per cent) compared to female-identifying (45 per cent) and male-identifying (43 per cent) students, and below-average income students (49 per cent) compared to average or above-average income students (44 per cent).

Why is it that so many young people feel this way? Well, one explanation could be that teens and young adults don't want to worry their parents. A third of students surveyed agreed that "My parents/guardians wouldn't want me to get help at school because they would be worried I might be treated differently or be given fewer opportunities."

But we know that parents want to do all they can to help their children if they're worried about their mental wellbeing. If you feel like your child might be struggling, youth mental health charity YoungMinds suggests some steps you can take:

  • Start a conversation: You might start by letting them know that you’ve noticed they don’t seem very happy at the moment, voicing your concerns in a caring and non-judgmental way.
  • Listen and provide support: Try not to ask too many questions, come up with quick solutions or gloss over their sadness. Empathise with how they’re feeling and remember they’ve taken a risk in opening up to you – let them know they can talk to you as often and for as long as they need to.
  • Encourage them to speak to someone else: If they don't feel able to talk to you at the moment, remind them of other people in their support circle or point them towards professional services.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, make an appointment to see your GP or contact Young Minds’ free parents’ helpline for advice on 0808 802 5544. 

In related news, new research has shown that teenagers in the UK feel 'hopeless' about their futures and believe their lives will be worse than their parents', while it turns out losing a grandmother can impact teenage boys' mental health for as long as seven years. If you're worried about your child's mental health, we've asked the experts to explain 12 signs of depression in children and what to do if you're concerned.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.