Making tiny changes to young people’s mental health

Of the six million people living in Scotland, we all have one thing in common: mental health. However, many young people are missing out on vital support and information on mental illness. Now, charities and young people are uniting for change.

It’s no secret that one in four people across the UK will experience a mental health condition within a single year. Mental health conditions can affect anyone regardless of location or sexual orientation or wealth, and even age.

In fact, one in 10 children and young people live with a mental health problem. Depression, anxiety and anorexia, to name a few, are conditions that young people can experience. Mental health conditions can present themselves at any time, however, finding the right help and support earlier on is imperative for future development.

FOCUS

“Half of all mental health conditions have begun by the age of 14; and three quarters before 25,” explains Carolyn Lochhead, from SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health). “We know that if we don’t tackle mental health problems early on it can manifest itself much later in life.”

Scott Hutchison, lead singer and guitarist for Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, was continually open and honest about his experiences of living with mental illness. Throughout his life, Scott was open about his experience with anxiety as a child, but,unfortunately Scott’s battle with mental illness ended in May of 2018.

From his journey as a young person to an adult with mental illness, Scott’s family have started their charity Tiny Changes in his memory, which will focus on helping more young people get support for mental health issues.

CHANGE

Carolyn continues: “A mental health problem can cause difficulties finding and keeping a job; having relationships; or even leaving the house. Research shows if we are not tackling mental health problems early on then it absolutely can pass into adulthood and make things more difficult than they needed to be.”

Figures reveal that by the age of 16, three children in every classroom will have experienced a mental health problem. Similarly, of the people living with mental illness, nine out of 10 people will experience stigma and discrimination. This needs to change, and its young people in Scotland who are calling for that change.

In May of this year the Youth Commission on Mental Health Services revealed their report on their vision
of mental health services in Scotland. Over 16 months, 23 young people from across Scotland consulted with over 100 organisations, engaged with 120 young people, and dedicated their time and efforts into making a change on how we care for mental health in young people.

AM I OK?

Neva was a member of the commission, she enthuses: “Anything to do with mental health, I need to have my voice out there to detail what other people have experienced and what I have gone through.”

Living with low-level anxiety, Neva’s family have all had their own experiences of mental illness.

“I had a really supportive family; as we’ve all experienced mental health problems we could all support each other,” explains Neva. “Then again, not everyone will have that person they can speak to or be open with, or even be able to find what we were able to find. We were just lucky.”

As Neva expresses, not everyone is as fortunate. In fact, 75 per cent of young people don’t know what mental health information, support, and services are available in their area.

SAMH has released a document entitled Am I OK? as an online guide for young people to further understand what a mental health condition is, and what support is available. Similarly, the resource How to Help a Friend? is available for young people who are concerned about a friend. As SAMH continually campaign for young people’s mental health, the Youth Commission’s report is set to make great change, too.

TREATMENT

Within the report, there was greater focus on providing young people across Scotland more choice on the mental health services they can connect with. Increasing education on mental health and wellbeing amongst young Scots, starting from bringing education into primary and secondary schools.

The report called for no less than 37 steps that local authorities and the Scottish Government, third sector, NHS and similar should take to ensure more young people are supported. One of those steps was to ensure that mental health referrals are treated with the same sense of urgency as physical health referrals.

At present, many young people will find themselves referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), but with extreme waiting times and people being turned away, CAMHS is not necessarily enough for young people.

“We have such a great understanding of physical health, but there isn’t the best understanding as we could for mental health,” emphasises Neva. “I hope people take it seriously. We need to open the conversation and lower the stigma.”

It is evident more needs to be done to support the mental health and wellbeing of our young people. With increased pressures in school, socialising and finding work, it can heighten the feelings brought on through mental illness. Treatment at an earlier stage is sure to allow young people to better understand their mental health conditions, receive adequate guidance and treatment to fulfil any future goals.

Neva fervently concludes: “Try and figure out what works for you. There are lots of options, research and if you are turned away don’t worry about it: that service is just overwhelmed at the moment. Speak to people around you that you trust.”