The state of young people’s mental health

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, guest blogger, young person and professional Kat Cormack looks at the state of young people’s mental health in 2013 and examines access to treatment, perception of people with mental health issues and stigma.

So here we are on the week of World Mental Health Day 2013 and I can’t believe a year has passed already since the last one.

It’s also ten years since I started receiving mental health treatment and so now seems to me like a good time to take stock and see what is currently happening in children and young people’s mental health. I guess that makes this my “State of the mental health nation” speech.

Mental health, illness and everything in between is a massive area and I could talk to you about everything from ADHD to Z-drugs but then this would be less blog and more book: or five! So I’m going to focus on a few areas that I feel make for good indicators to assess the health of our mental health and services.

The last 10 years have been huge for me, seeing me going from a severely ill 14-year-old to a moderately ill but high functioning adult. In this time I have gone from being a student at school using CAMHS to someone who now works for the NHS and with YoungMinds (and occasionally uses Adult Mental Health Services).

I have also spent five years working with YoungMinds, the Royal College of Psychiatrists as well as completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology where my dissertation was based on young people’s experiences of transitions from CAMHS to adult services. This puts me in a somewhat unique situation (not unlike a tightrope at times) of being a professional, a “young person” and a service user all at once.

So where do we begin? I think two of the most salient indicators are access to treatment and perception of people with mental health issues. These are the two areas I will be covering in this blog.

Access to treatment

Asking for help with a mental health problem is daunting. I’m not going to lie. It takes courage to admit that things aren’t right and that you’re struggling and I commend everyone who takes this first step.

For most young people the first port of call is their GP, it was for me too. Ten years ago when I first asked for help my GP (newly qualified) had no idea about mental health having received no real training in the area. At the time I didn’t think much of it but looking back that’s pretty shocking given that such a high percentage of GP visits are related to mental health.

Fast forward 10 years and some progress has been made and I have met a lot of GPs who are very much up to speed with mental health and act accordingly. However many still have limited training and understanding and I have had my fair share of run-ins with GPs who are ignorant to the point of negligence. This needs to change. We cannot keep telling young people just to “talk to a teacher or your doctor” if they’re worried if we don’t then train these professionals to respond appropriately.

After seeing the GP for many young people they are referred to CAMHS. However we know that waiting lists are still unacceptably long with many young people waiting months (or even up to 18 months) for the support they so desperately need. This is not acceptable.

There is much talk of bringing about “parity of esteem”, to put it simply this means we need to start treating mental health as seriously as we treat physical health and that includes holding services to account to the same waiting times. You wouldn’t have to wait 18 months to get a broken leg fixed!

Another big problem we face in 2013 is the increasingly savage cuts to health and social care. Through an FOI request YoungMinds found that two thirds of local authorities have cut their budgets for children and young people’s mental health services since the coalition government came to power in 2010. One service suffered cuts of 41%. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/21737173)

At a time when even more children and young people are experiencing mental health problems the last thing we can afford to do is cut services. Children and young people are not immune to the effects of the recession which have lead to a surge in family breakdown, youth unemployment and stress for young people. And as Tier 3 services like children’s centers are closed the burden increasingly falls even more heavily on CAMHS which was struggling as it was 10 years ago when I first came into contact with them.

With three in every classroom affected by a mental health problem we are letting down too many children and young people.

This is why I am happy to hear that many schools are beginning to ask more organisations like the wonderful BodyGossip to come in and talk to their students. I’m also glad that there is a lot more talk of teaching children resilience and even screening for mental health issues from the age of 7.

Perception of mental illness

Another area that I have watched with interest over the last decade is the way mental illness is viewed and the stigma associated with it.

Thankfully I can say that we’re making some progress with this. When I was at school we never ever heard about mental illness. Now we have amazing campaigns like Time to Change’s Stand Up Kid, YoungMinds in Schools, Student Minds, The Acseed initiative and Mental Wealth.

But we still have a long way to go. I may now be very open about my mental health, something I definitely didn’t feel able to do 10 years ago, but I am part of a minority. I am lucky enough to have the support of my family, friends and importantly my employer. This has not always been the case and I have suffered discrimination in the workplace because of my health as have many thousands of others. We need to create an environment in our country where it is okay to talk about how we feel.

I think that the recent ASDA/Tesco “mental patient” costume scandal is a very good example of some of the stigma we still face in society. Although having said that, the fact that this story hit the news as hard as it did is actually quite heartening. It wouldn’t have made mainstream news 10 years ago.

I also recently ran into the anti-psychiatry movement founded by Scientology, the ironically named Citizens Commission on Human Rights. As I stated in my blog here this was really shocking for me. I know people struggle with the idea that children can experience distress and mental illness but to run head first into people that don’t believe that mental illness exists at all?

There is definitely a lot of work still to be done to help educate people but I also know that there are lots of fantastic organisations, too many to name, fighting daily to reduce stigma and increase awareness.

So overall how is the state of children and young people’s mental health in 2013? I don’t think we can say clearly that it is “better” or “worse” than it was 10 years ago. There have been improvements, there have been set backs but perhaps, if I am dangerously optimistic, I would say things are gradually improving in some ways.

What we need now is for proper investment in children and young people’s mental health, and in mental health in general. For too long it has been a Cinderella service and we cannot continue this way. Research shows both that over half of adults with a mental health issue developed it by the age of 14 and that prevention and early intervention work and save both money, and more importantly lives, in the long run.

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A few weeks ago i blogged about how you could  Celebrate World Mental Health Day in London. I was lucky enough to be able to do just that and found myself on the 10th of October at Camden’s Real Talk event titled “Mad, Bad or Sad”.

The event brought together more than 60 young people from Camden and a range of organisations for a dynamic, interactive debate on mental health at Camden Council. Young people were asked a range of questions such as “when you hear “mental health” what do you think?” and “would you tell your friends if you had a mental health problem in the past” and responded by voting with keypads; a really great way to use technology to involve people in open, honest debate.

The event was hosted by Brooke Kinsella (@brookekinsella), star of Eastenders and anti-knife crime campaigner and Luc Skyz (@LucSkyz), London rapper but i must say the real stars of the show were the young people.

I attended the event as a member of YoungMinds staff and had my own stall full of information, freebies and sweets (which proved to be very popular!). I spoke to so many young people and told them what we get up to at the nations leading children and young people’s mental health charity and a lot of people expressed an interest in getting involved.

I also got to tell the young people i spoke to about the app i am currently developing with NHS London and there was a lot of interest, young people told me they wouldn’t necessarily know where to go if they needed help or were worried about a friend; something i hear time and time again. It was good to hear that there is a genuine need and want for the app we are working on and i hope that when it is released it helps.

My favourite part of Real Talk was sitting in on the debate “Mad, Bad or Sad” and it was really interesting to hear directly from young people what they think mental health is and how they perceive mental illness and those that suffer from it.

There were some very revealing comments and some great questions; hopefully we busted some stigmas and it was great just to be able to talk openly about mental health with people who might not necessarily think twice about it otherwise.

Overall it was a fantastic event and i am so glad i was able to be a part of it. I’d like to thank the organisers and all the young people that attended.

Celebrate World Mental Health Day in London

Celebrate World Mental Health Day in London

It’s  World Mental Health Day tomorrow. The event which is marking it’s 20th anniversary will this year  focus on Depression, something that affects a huge number of us here in the UK and worldwide and from what i can see is only getting worse.

As i’m currently working for YoungMinds and NHS London i thought i would do a little bit of my own research to see what London is doing to celebrate the day and how you can get involved.

Of course i may well have missed bits here and there so if anyone knows about something i’ve missed drop me a line in the form of a comment and i’ll add it to the list.

 

Camden

There will be a “Real Talk” event for 14-19 year olds running from 5:30-8:30pm at Camden Town Hall Council Chamber and the topic for debate is “Mental Health in Camden”. I will have a stall at the event and lots of information about YoungMinds and the VIK Project. There will also be some fantastic prizes, music, hot food and a goody bag for every participant. You do need a ticket for this event.

For tickets to Real Talk email Lizzie.Streeter@camden.gov.uk or call 020 7974 2943.   

North East London Foundation Trust

To mark World Mental Health Day, North East London NHS Foundation Trust is hosting a ‘Depression and Dementia’ awareness event on Wednesday 10 October at Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

The event will highlight how factors such as exercise and diet can affect mental health and how people can make positive changes to their everyday lives to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

http://www.nelft.nhs.uk/news_publications/110

Bipolar UK

Bipolar UK’s London office will be hosting a lunchtime welcome between 12 noon and 2pm. This is your opportunity to celebrate this special day, meet the team and learn more about bipolar and what the charity do do. 

http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/world-mental-health-day.html

Haringey Council

I’m very impressed by Haringey Council who are actually running a whole week’s worth of events in order to celebrate World Mental Health Day and help local people experiencing mental health problems. The list of activities is detailed on their website.

http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/social_care_and_health/mental-health/worldmentalhealthday.htm

London School of Economics

On October 8th in collaboration with the Central & North London NHS Trust and LSE Student union are holding an event on the Houghton street campus, in the Student union building to raise awareness of mental illness amongst students. There will be information stalls and a film show “Open Secrets” following by a group discussion.

http://lsesu.tumblr.com/post/32927625078/lsesu-is-marking-world-mental-health-day-8th-oct

JAMI (Jewish Association for Mental Illness)

JAMI will be manning stalls in the community, raining awareness about mental health for World Menatl Health day.

Barnet

All day event at Brent Cross Shopping Centre (Centre Court) Stalls, information, volunteers/advisers, short talks on mental illness.

On the 11th of October Barnet’s Mayor Brian Schama will be attending an event titled “No Health Without Mental Health”.

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/topstories/9959339.Mental_health_awareness_day_supported_by_Barnet_Mayor/

Dagenham

Dagenham are holding an event for World Mental Health Day, called Opportunities, which will highlight the Employment, Education and Training opportunities in the local communities for people with mental health issues, as well as raising awareness and addressing stigma.

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/events/wmhd-opportunities

Hammersmith Lyric Theatre

An event will be held in the Lyric Square and Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith on Wednesday 10th October 12-4pm. The purpose of the event is to combat the stigma associated with mental health, promote awareness of mental health and provide information on services available. The event will have something for everyone: a play produced by the Creative Minds Youth Project, speakers, film screenings, advice & information, and stalls and workshops on mental health.

Time for Tea

Gillet Square, 14th October.

Time for tea is a one day festival spread over three locations in Dalston for World Mental Health Day in association with: Hackney Community Services East London NHS Foundation Trust Gillett Squared Studio Upstairs and Time to Change.

http://www.studioupstairs.org.uk/featured-news/time-for-tea-festival/

 Time to Change

Time to Change are running a roadshow event at a local community centre – MyPlace Community Centre in Harold Hill Romford which is linking in with an art exhibition that is delivered by people with Mental Health conditions to raise awareness of mental health to local people in Havering.

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/events/mental-health-awareness-day-10th-october-2012

Rethink Your Mind

Rethink Your Mind had a fantastic London launch event that  i was lucky enough to attend last month. They asked people to send it positive, creative work with the sentence ‘With good mental health I have…’ to start them off.

 They will be revealing the winner of their competition and showcasing some of the creative work that has been sent to them.

http://www.rethinkyourmind.co.uk/

Mental Health Foundation

Tea and Talk events: All you have to do is get together a group of friends, family or colleagues, put the kettle on and invite them to make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation, it’s as simple as that!

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-involved/as-a-fundraiser/teaandtalk/

MindApples

The wonderful Mind Apples will have one of their trees down at Southwark Cathedral on World Mental Health Day. Check it out and add your 5 a day!