Improving Mental Health Support

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Three steps to improve mental health support for young people

Over the past three years, Healthwatch have heard from over 20,000 young people about their experiences of mental health support. To gain a deeper understanding of this issues, they brought together 47 young people, aged 16-25, to talk about what affects their mental health, their current experiences of care, and what services can do to better support them.

What affects young people’s mental health?

Stigma – Stigma is still an issue, and they told us that they often bottle up their feelings until they reach crisis point.

Pressures – Young people feel under pressure to succeed and told us about the stress they experience due to external factors like exams, as well as peer pressure and pressure they place on themselves.

Social media – Young people told us how social media can be a trigger for poor mental health. However, they also shared it can be used positively to raise awareness, reduce stigma and build online communities.

Gender – We also heard about gender-specific triggers. Young men told us how they don’t feel safe reaching out for help due to gendered social expectations, with some turning to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Young women told us that self-esteem and pressures around body image are a common trigger.

What do young people want their mental health support to look like?

Young people want better education and communication on mental health issues, more options for help, along with more ‘personalised’ care – for example seeing the same health professional regularly, so they don’t have to explain their story multiple times. They also want to feel they’re being truly listened to by health professionals and that what they say will be kept confidential.

Peer support is seen as crucial to many, including ‘casual meet-ups with others who have a mental health condition, where they can help each other and talk about their issues’.

  • Access to mentors and life coaches who have been through similar issues themselves.
  • Shorter waiting times for CAMHS specialists, but they understand this is not always possible. As an alternative they’d like to see interim options for peer or online support while they wait for a referral, further support or treatment.

Read the research

Read our research to find out young people’s experiences of mental health care and what services can do to improve support.

Download the report

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(Author)

Apart from five years studying in Oxford I’ve lived most of my life in London where for many years I was Head of English in a prestigious girls’ school, but since taking early retirement and heading West to be nearer to my two daughters - settling in Torbay with my wife, Anna, in 2011 - I’ve worked in the voluntary sector. I took on the role of Service Provider, for example, promoting the Red Cross Torbay Navigators Project, while now I’m a Trustee and part of the Media Team for our local Healthwatch. I’m a governor at Torquay Academy, too, giving me the chance to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of education. Other interests, aside from friends and family, include art and art history, reading - from contemporary fiction and poetry to Elizabethan/Jacobean literature - history, politics, cooking, walking, and music, in particular Bob Dylan, the blues, and early Elvis. I love writing, too, with one novel published so far – Elvis in Wonderland – and another, Who’s There?, that still needs plenty of work!

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