After an NHS survey shone a light on the grim reality for the state of young people’s mental health in Britain, the president of major health charity Mind has called for urgent investment into mental health, while the director of residential and supported living placements provider Jiva Healthcare, talks up the need to diversify services to cover people of all ages.
Attitudes toward mental health have come a long way over the last decade. Mind president Stephen Fry noted that the stigma around mental health has dissipated and awareness and understanding has reached a point where elite athletes such as Simone Biles, Ben Stokes and Naomi Osaka feel comfortable enough to speak openly about their mental health and take a sabbatical from their respective sports as they would for any other illness or injury.
However, as Fry acknowledged, there is a rise in the severity and scale of mental health problems across the country and NHS mental health services are feeling the pinch. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on mental health among the UK populace and no respite has been found in the lifting of social restrictions.
In their own study, Mind uncovered that younger generations are among the worst affected by ill mental health at the time. Its 2021 survey of almost 12,000 people - the majority of which had a pre-existing mental health condition - indicated that 32 per cent of young people self-harmed over the course of the last year. Younger people were also found to be over twice as likely to self-harm as a coping mechanism than adults with mental health problems.
Meanwhile, for three quarters of 2020, emergency and urgent referrals for young people suffering ill mental health were higher compared to the same month in 2019.
A significant blame factor for these statistics, in Fry’s view, is that young people are still not receiving the targeted support they need in school to intervene early.
“Although times have changed, young people are still not getting the support they need in secondary schools, which affects their ability and willingness to participate in any kind of education”, he said.
“96 per cent of young people surveyed by Mind recently reported that their mental health had affected their schoolwork at some point, and nearly seven in ten [68 per cent of] young people reported being absent from school due to their mental health.”
While the UK government has sought to address the problem by launching mental health training programmes in schools and colleges, Mind has called for ministers to do more by investing into a network of early support hubs for 11-to-25-year-olds in England.
Fry said: “These hubs would provide young people with mental health support in a friendly, non-threatening, non-clinical setting when problems first emerge - before they hit crisis point. They would also be open to young people who weren’t deemed unwell enough to be eligible for support from overstretched Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services [CAMHS].
“As the UK government makes difficult decisions as part of the upcoming Spending Review, I urge them to prioritise the mental health of children and young people, to make sure that every young person has somewhere to turn.”
While Fry targeted the lack of mental health support in school and the need for this to change, Sanjeev Rajput, director at Sussex-based Jiva Healthcare, believes that the social care industry has a duty to pay greater attention to mental health provision and better diversify services to ensure it can provide the appropriate support for all.
Since its 2007 establishment, Jiva has transformed mental health services in Sussex by turning around numerous failing providers, to become a leading player in the provision of residential and supported living placements across East and West Sussex. With years of experience behind him, Rajput has long been struck by the discovery that most of the social care sector is focused on older people’s services and mental health is often allowed to fall by the wayside.
Rajput told The Parliamentary Review: “Since working in mental health we have noticed that most of the care sector is focussed on older people’s services. Mental health service providers often feel overlooked by key sections of the industry and regulatory bodies do not always understand the challenges we face.”
In order to address the problem, Rajput explained that his organisation has had little alternative but to take the matter into their own hands, reaching out to other providers and joining the Sussex Mental Health Managers Network to help raise awareness within industry and government.
“Doing this has allowed us to work with people from the NICE Guidelines who have been keen to learn more about our sector”, Rajput said.
“We have also spoken to our local MP in Hove and Portslade who is keen to support us in our work. We believe that by reaching out to key people we can raise the understanding of the work we do which will ultimately benefit everyone who uses our services and mental health services at large.”
As the state of mental health in the UK continues to deteriorate, Rajput is unwilling to simply wait for government intervention through investment into wider services and instead is looking to use Jiva Healthcare as a trailblazer for others working in social care.
“We are looking to develop new services so that we can offer support to a wide variety of people, instead of expecting it to come from elsewhere”, Rajput said.
“We aim to work with younger, forensic clients as well as those with more complex needs. By using the model that we have created, we are now confident of moving the company forward and bringing our unique brand of care to an increasing client group.”