A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Charlee and Patrick from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and Humber look at the cuts to mental health services and why it is important that we keep mental health as a focus of our work.
On Monday this week, the Journal of Adolescent Health released a report identifying a seven per cent rise in the number of girls reporting emotional issues when responding to a health questionnaire in 2014, completed by 1,600 pupils aged 11–13. This involved a comparison with responses to a similar survey in 2009. It was in 2014 when the Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, described mental health services for young people as ‘stuck in the dark ages’ and ‘not fit for purpose’.
The scientists who looked at the results said the reason behind the seven per cent rise for young women could ‘include a drive to achieve unrealistic body images, perpetuated by social media and an increasing sexualisation of young women’ which links to the increased access to pornography by young people. However, they also suggested that funding cuts to mental health services might also be to blame.
Sarah Brennan, of the charity YoungMinds, said on the BBC website: “This research is shocking further concrete evidence of the serious and worsening state of children and young people’s mental health in this country. “Young people tell us they feel enormous pressures today ranging from bullying, the 24/7 online environment and sexual pressures to issues around body image, school stress and family breakdown. “YoungMinds is concerned that these are affecting girls in particular.”
In the summer of 2014, the UK Youth Parliament adopted mental health as the national campaign for England. The results from the survey don’t tell us how many young people are affected by mental health issues, only that there was a worrying rise. At a recent conference for young people in the Yorkshire and Humber region, it was suggested that approximately one in four experience mental health issues.
How do we, as practitioners, create an environment with time, space and resources to encourage young people to explore and discuss what is ‘mental health’ and how and where to go when you need additional support?
Within the region there are some innovative projects both campaigning for improved services and delivering these services. Access to mental health services has now been included in local authority children and young peoples and plans and commissioners and decision makers are now asking what they can do.
There is a national campaign to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, and this conversation is taking place with young people. There is a growing recognition of the links between mental health and issues confronted by young people on a daily basis as outlined by Young Minds. Even the political parties have started to notice with the Conservatives saying they will improve access to mental health treatments. Liberal Democrats have identified mental health of young people as a priority promising £3.5bn extra for mental health, that includes £1.25bn for children and teenagers while the Green Party want to make mental health a greater priority.
We wait to see how these promises translate into services and will continue to support young people across the Yorkshire and Humber region to campaign on these issues and design services that meet their needs.
Charlee Bewsher and Patrick Ambrose, Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and Humber