Monday, January 20, 2014

Can we beat the mental health time bomb?

“There will be improved access to psychological therapies for children and young people across the whole of England AND schools will be supported to identify mental health problems sooner."

Big promises huh? They're just numbers six and 17 of 25 points set out in the Government's mental health action plan, “Closing the Gap: priorities for essential change in mental health” today revealed by Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb.

I agree, it’s never been more vital that real action is taken to help young people suffering with mental health issues, quickly, but to also educate them, reduce the stigma in schools and help prevent them getting ill in the first place.

At the same time as the Deputy Prime Minister was pledging to take action on mental health across Britain, the charity Young Minds released shocking new statistics on what they call a ‘ticking time bomb’ about to explode in our schools if we don't take action. 

In the study, which coincides with the launch of their ‘YoungMindsVs’ campaign, the outlook appears to be bleak (and stressful) for those growing up in what the charity calls a ‘toxic climate’ – unless of course we all take joined-up action to change that.

We all remember the pressure of school, the exams, the bullies, the first boyfriends, your ‘first time’ and the dreaded parents’ evenings, but this is more than that. It seems young people are no longer coping with the mounting pressures piling up around them and they don't know what to do about it. 

YoungMind’s study of 2000 children and young people found that more than half “believe they will be a failure if they don’t get good grades” and around the same number have experienced bullying. 

From an eating disorders perspective, it’s extremely worrying that the poll also found “four out of ten 11-14 year olds skip meals to stay thin.” At the same time the Government identifies that “Half of those with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14; early identification and where necessary intervention can make a massive difference.” 

It's not the first time we've heard these warnings, only last week ChildLine reported a surge in the number of mental health related calls it's getting from young people battling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.  

So professionals and politicians understand picking up on problems early reduces the risk of a life plagued by mental health problems, it also costs a hell of a lot less cash if it's caught early too. 

We know this is especially vital in eating disorders, they can be prevented and stopped in their tracks. It can mean life or death. Beat's Eating Disorders Waiting Times research echoes this. So maybe it’s time people see that skipped meal little more seriously, before that skipped meal in pursuit of thinness develops into full-blown anorexia nervosa?

But do young people feel able to ask for help?
Will they be listened to and taken seriously? 
AND where the heck do they go? 

It would seem at the moment they’re clueless. YoungMinds warn that; “a third don’t know where to turn to get help when they feel depressed or anxious.” 

This needs changing, quickly. Young people need to understand mental illnesses better, they need to understand themselves more and they need to know they’re not alone. It's vital they know where to go. 

But when they do speak up, is it is essential that the specialist services are there, the psychological therapists are ready and that young people are not kept on waiting lists, getting worse by the day. 

Under action point six in the Government’s pledge they say; “We want to do more to promote mental well being amongst children and young people, and prevent them from developing mental health problems.”

I agree, but it’s not about them WANTING to do more now, it’s an absolute necessity that funding isn't continually slashed from CAMHS budgets, that money is spent preventively, that professionals are educated and that we all take action to stop the spiral. 

With a ticking time-bomb ready to explode; we haven't got time to be cautious or worry about making a ‘fuss over nothing’ about a skipped meal or stressed out, grumpy teenager. Action needs to be taken. On all fronts – from Government, to health services and in classrooms – if we are going to avoid this bomb doing some serious damage, to everyone.


Find out more:

Young Minds 'YoungMindsVs' Campaign.

Follow this issue on Twitter; @YoungMindsUK @YoungMindsVs @BeatED @DepHealthPress @Nick_Clegg @NormanLamb @MindCharity and many more. 


Anonymous said...

well done and well written x :)


Michael A said...

Hi, I'm a Hypnotherapist and I'm quite convinced that Hypnotherapy can be used to treat Anorexia. I would very much welcome a discussion. See my site There is a video there which explains how I propose treating Anorexia sufferers.