Within the last year I feel like there has been a lot of emphasis on mental health through social media and film/TV culture. It is amazing that such a silent issue, and almost considered shameful by those suffering, is really being pulled into the forefront of society and really propelled in our faces so we can all work together to make a change for the better. I am close to lots of people in my life who have various mental health issues, and I am sure you probably are too. I always enjoy writing posts that are personal to me and that other people might relate to because I can write from a much deeper place and could probably write pages and pages.
Mental Health: Beyond Awareness is a five-day campaign that addresses mental health issues beyond just “raising awareness”. Millennials are the most aware of mental health issues than they have ever been in the past, however our services are letting us down. How can we make sure we make an actual difference and an actual change that ventures beyond making people aware? Richard Crellin, policy and research manager at The Children’s Society says “There’s a lot more talk in the media, on television…I think children and young people are much more aware of mental health than perhaps in previous generations.”
The problem that young people are faced against is not one of awareness but instead there’s a disastrous dilemma with the services being provided for them. While referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are increasing, 60% end up untreated. A report by charity YoungMinds this year discovered that 66% of young people said they had difficulty accessing support – 44% found it hard to get a CAMHS referral, and 61% had a long wait for actual treatment. Last year, the case of “girl X” was highlighted, reflecting how despairing the situation is for some people – the NHS were unable to find a bed for a suicidal 17-year-old.
This all comes down to a lack of government support. “The government recently announced some welcome initiatives, but they don’t go far enough. Children’s mental health services need increased, long-term funding, as well as a bigger emphasis on preventing mental health problems from developing in the first place.” – YoungMinds’ Director of Campaigns Tom Maddens. “A very simplistic summary of government activity on young people’s mental health would be ‘all rhetoric and no action,’” says Natasha Devon, a mental health campaigner. “They are unwilling or unable to commit the drastic amounts of funding and policy changes which would be required to make a noticeable difference. Services are stretched beyond capacity. The system is broken.”
Dazed spoke to numerous young people, as well as activists and organisations, to discover the five most important things that need to happen for significant and beneficial change:
SET A CUT-OFF FOR WAITING TIMES
You shouldn’t only be able to access services when you’re in a crisis or a critical stage. There’s an average of a three month wait for help when young people are referred to NHS mental health services. Some have to wait for even longer.
MAKE THE TREATMENT ACCESSIBLE FOR PATIENTS
The number of sessions and the type of sessions people receive do not benefit them. There’s a major issue with young people missing appointments, over 150,000 were missed in 2016, which is because of how inflexible the service can be.
TREAT 16-25 YEAR OLDS UNIQUELY
Being placed on a six week waiting list makes you feel like you are not a priority when you are really seeking help. There needs to be more emphasis put on the care of the individual, seeing the individual as a person and not a statistic, because everyone’s care needs to be different. Nurse Clara agrees. “The transition from child to adult services is very lengthy and stressful for the young person… there should be a bridge-the-gap service, as an 18-year-old should not be treated with the same service a 64-year-old is, they are going to have very different obstacles to face.
ACTIVELY REACH OUT TO YOUNG MEN AND BOYS
Statistics show that young girls are more likely to be hospitalised or prescribed anti-depressants, while boys are more likely to die from suicide. Many males feel pressure to confirm to a stereotype of the strong male. When they reach out and stem away from the constraints of masculinity, unfortunately there are not many routes open to them.
LISTEN TO YOUNG PEOPLE
There’s a problem with the way that young people aren’t listened to. It is easy to put everyone into the same category and try and fix them in the same way, but this doesn’t work because everyone’s cases are different and individual and each need to be taken seriously. It is very hard to understand what is going on inside someone else’s mind, so when helping each individual, they need to be treated with immense respect and empathy and provided with whatever help they feel they need.