Yesterday (11th April 2016), CentreForum, the independent think-tank published a report, which revealed that nearly a quarter of children and teenagers on average are turned away by mental health services after being referred by their GP’s, teachers or others.
CentreForum found that this was due to service’s having ‘high thresholds’ for access to their services, revealed after analysis of the service’s eligibility criteria.
In the report, CentreForum stated that these high thresholds for treatment eligibility prevent one of the most effective forms of mental health treatment for young people- early intervention.
It was also found that young people were waiting for prolonged periods of time to access treatment with the average of the longest waiting times being almost 10 months between the first GP/school referral and the beginning of their treatment. This, along with a lack of funding for mental health services in certain areas of the UK shows a worrying escalation in the support offered to young people suffering from mental illness.
This report has been released in the same week that a UK bereavement charity pushed for a full investigation by the Government into the way deaths of young people in mental health units are recorded. An inquest suggested that nine young people had died as in- patients within mental health facilities since 2010.
This only solidifies that there is a considerable lack of support for young people suffering from mental illness.
Early intervention is key.
Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses suffered by children and teenagers will often by present at a young age. Certain behaviour such as a change in sleeping patterns, irritability, loss of interest in certain activities and withdrawal from socialisation can often be clear indications of a young person who is carrying the black dog. Some people may question whether this is just the behaviour of a typical teenager. But this behaviour will often extend to prolonged periods of time with little to no change in mood.
This will often affect a young person’s school or college life, resulting in low grades, bad behaviour or low attendance. These warning signs should be a clear indication that further investigation is needed.
Intervening as soon as a problem is spotted can allow schools to offer the right support and advice for the affected young person as soon as possible. All too often, a young person who has suffered from mental illness will have gone throughout their school life with little to no mental wellbeing support. I know of quite a few young adults who suffer from depression or anxiety and have done from a young age, yet never had anyone listen to their issues or offer support which could have allowed them to receive the treatment they needed much earlier.
Is it the lack of funding? Or a higher demand?
The reality is that figures show funding levels for NHS mental health care in England have dropped by 2 percent in recent years. This lack of funding leads to long waiting lists and less accessibility to the services, which are desperately needed to prevent the potential suicide and self-harm of young people. It also puts a strain on charities that rely solely on donations to provide young people support such as Samaritans and Child Line.
There is also the higher demand for these services due to the rise in mental illness in young people. Statistics by YoungMinds.org.uk show that young people between the ages of 15 to 16 with depression doubled between the 1980’s and the 2000’s, showing there is a constant increase in the amount of young people being diagnosed with mental heath issues. This could be due to a lack of knowledge in previous years or maybe just the way our society has changed its views on mental health. Regardless of what has caused this higher demand for services, these resources need to be available to prevent an increase in suicide levels in adulthood as well as self-harm in young people, which is believed to affect 13 percent of children and teenagers between the ages of 11 to 16.
We shouldn’t have to lose a young person due to a lack of support and funding for life-saving services.
If you have been affected by the topics discussed in this post, please contact the following organisations for support: