Last week it was revealed that NHS spending on mental health has reduced by 6% since 2010, which is equivalent to £50m and two out of three local authorities in England have reported cuts to the NHS specialist service, CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health service) budgets.
The present coalition government spent £717m on mental health services between 2012 and 2013, compared with the £766m spent by the labour government between 2009 and 2010. Add to this that between 1994 and 2008 self-reported mental wellbeing showed improvement, yet from 2009 onwards, children’s life satisfaction has showed no signs of improvement and at any one time in England as many as 10% of children and young people have low levels of wellbeing and approximately 10% have a diagnosed mental health problem – that’s approximately three young people in every classroom.
What is mental wellbeing?
Mental wellbeing is a “dynamic state in which an individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and effectively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community.”
Why is it so important to offer services and support to young people with mental health problems / low mental wellbeing?
The annual report of 2012 by the Chief Medical Officer states that “It is known that 50% of mental illness in adult life (excluding dementia) starts before age 15 and 75% by age 18.” – a point raised by Francesca Reed, Youth MP for South West at the UKMP annual House of Commons debate in November, arguing that “young people are not receiving the help they deserve.” Ms Reed points to the fact that failing to provide the right support for children and young people in a timely fashion only increases the problem later on in adults – not to mention the fact that “poorly-managed, long-term mental and physical health problems cost the NHS £13b a year” as Paul Burstow MP points out.
Early intervention is key to managing mental health problems and yet with the cuts to CAMHS budgets being the largest in tiers one and two, which are the early intervention tiers, children and young people are likely to only enter the system for support at tiers three and four, when their mental wellbeing will have deteriorated much more. Added to this, a survey of head teachers has reported that 54% claim that the referral system is ineffective.
Equally problematic is what is referred to as the ‘transition’ – this is where a young person with mental health problems moves to access adult services (aged 18) – the problem is that the age at which CAMHS support ends varies depending on where you live and some young people can find themselves with no support after their 16th birthday until they can access AMHS (adult mental health services) when they turn 18.
There are reported to be nearly 850,000 children and young people with mental health problems, as such the issue is not a small one to tackle. When the UK youth MPs met for their annual debate to vote on the issues that would form their campaign focus for 2015, they didn’t think it was a small issue either and of the 285 youth MPs that attended the debate, 167 voted in favour of making the improvement of mental health service provision for young people a priority campaign. This issue itself was chosen through the Make your Mark ballot, which saw 876.488 11 – 18 year olds take part – the largest number to date.
How do mental health problems relate to other problems?
Poor mental wellbeing can affect a person’s physical health also and reports indicate that of the young people with mental health problems 41% smoke regularly, 24% drink alcohol at least once a week, 49% use cannabis at least once a month and between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 self-harm.
Young people with poor mental wellbeing are less likely to achieve their potential academically, which clearly has a knock on effect in that they are less likely to gain and keep a fulfilling job.
It is important to note however, that mental health problems that have been diagnosed are covered in the single equality act by the disability protected characteristic and it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you on the grounds of your mental health problem.
Why are more young people suffering poor mental wellbeing?
Many have pointed to economic pressure faced by families and young people, increased parental separation and social media as reasons for an increase in young people suffering poor mental health, with pro-anorexia and self-harm sites and sites that encourage young people to engage in these self-destructive activities.
Perhaps you have been affected by mental health problems directly or because someone close to you has suffered. If you’re interested in developing career where you can offer support and help to others then check out our Health, Public Services and Care sector page to find out more.