The BBC's World at One programme highlighted that the provision of mental health services for children and young people is the biggest single weakness in the NHS system today!
The scale of the problem
According to official figures, 75% of adult mental health problems start before the sufferer reaches the age of 18 but only 10% of the mental health budget is spent on young people. There are many pressures for teenagers to face (appearance, puberty, bullying, and exam stress) but when discussions move into the public arena of social media, sufferers see their symptoms magnified. They also report that their friends lost contact with them during their treatment and schools were reluctant to allow them to return to their setting for fear that other pupils might begin to self-harm.
Jeremy Hunt has been planning a suicide prevention strategy and pledged additional funding of £1.4billion for mental health over 5 years, but CAMHS (the service for young people) have seen their funding cut, despite seeing a significant increase in children with mental health problems, resulting in 3 in 4 young people in some areas not getting the help they need within a three month period, leading to an escalation of symptoms and and increase in self-harm and suicide attempts.
Recent NHS figures show an increase of 42% in young girls referred for self-harm in the past 10 years and nearly 20% of anorexics will die from either malnutrition or suicide. When sufferers reach 18, they have the additional terror of entering the adult mental health system and and their parents have no rights to see their medical notes, meaning that many drop off the NHS radar. Some politicians believe that there is a crisis in mental health treatment and those who are offered treatment are often sent many miles away from their homes to live with young people with similar problems, which in the case of conditions like anorexia, can lead to a worsening of their condition.
Unlike physical health, there are no NICE guidelines or access and waiting time standards in place for young people's mental health. Additionally, we pressures on local council funding, services such as youth groups and sports facilities are being cut but these are the very things that can improve the mental health of the community, reducing isolation, building resilience, and producing endorphins as well as improving the physical health of participants.
It's time to talk
A recent survey published by 'Time to Change' (the campaign run by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness to change public attitudes towards mental health) found that more than half of young men in the UK would not feel comfortable speaking to their father about their own mental health. Yet this is the time when most teenagers start to realise that their feelings and behaviours may not be like those of their peers, resulting in confusion and self-loathing. As teenagers or children, it is hard to vocalise feelings and symptoms, so parents often don't recognise a mental health issue and don't refer to GPs or other professionals until the problem is serious and ingrained.
So what can be done?
Sufferers say that education and awareness is key to prevent symptoms from worsening. The anxiety caused by feeling abnormal can lead to additional problems when people don't have the emotional maturity or understanding of mental health to accept their condition and find ways of managing it. If you are over 16 and struggling to support someone with a mental health issue or looking for ways to manage your own mental health, contact CCC's nearest reception.
Cambridge 01223 233047 Peterborough 01733 553166
or contact us from our homepage.