Despite growing awareness about the importance of looking after children and young people’s mental health, it is still too difficult for them to get the help they need, a report has found. The #FightingFor report published by YoungMinds, to mark the charity’s 25th anniversary, shows that while most people believe there is less stigma about mental health than there used to be, young people and parents face a huge range of barriers in accessing professional help.
The charity surveyed more than 2,700 young people and 1,600 parents who have looked for support for their mental health - they found only 9% of young people and 6% of parents said they found it easy to get the support they needed. While 66% of young people and 84% of parents reported they had found it difficult.
“These results reflect what we hear every day from young people and parents – that, despite the great progress being made by campaigns like Heads Together to get people talking about mental health, as well as extra government investment, there can still be unacceptable barriers to getting help,” said Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds.
The YoungMinds’ survey also found that 81% of young people and 94% of parents felt there isn’t enough support for children and young people with mental health problems.
Both young people and parents reported barriers at every stage in their search for help. 51% said people hadn’t understood what they were going through, while 23% of parents said that their child hadn’t told them what they were going through. Furthermore, 42% of parents reported problems getting help from school or college, while 29% reported having problems getting help from their GP.
The surveys also showed that many young people who had received treatment from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had faced delays both before and after their initial assessment. 44% of young people who had accessed CAMHS said they found it hard to get an initial referral, 60% said there was a long wait between their referral and their assessment and 32% said there was a long wait between assessment and treatment.
Parents welcomed the government’s recent proposal to introduce mental health support teams into schools, but believed that the current proposals – to introduce a support team into a quarter of schools by 2022/23 – didn’t go far enough.
Brennan said that every day, the charity gets calls to their Parents Helpline from mums and dads whose children can’t get help at school and who’ve been waiting months for an assessment, or who have been told that they don’t meet the threshold for treatment.
“All the evidence shows that getting the right help quickly can prevent problems from escalating, so it’s not good enough that around half of those young people who reach out for help are turned away,” she said. “We’ve been fighting for young people’s mental health for 25 years. Getting the nation talking about mental health is a crucial part of that fight, but it needs to be matched by a mental health system that is equipped to handle the current crisis.”
What to do if you’re struggling to get support:
If your child is struggling with their mental health and you are finding it difficult to get support, Jo Hardy, head of parents services at YoungMinds said more than anything, it’s important to talk to them about it.
“It can be really difficult to start the conversation about mental health, but it’s a crucial first step and there are lots of tips and ideas on our website (youngminds.org.uk/take20) about how to do this,” she told HuffPost UK. “When you do speak to them, listen to them without judgement and make sure they know that you’re on their side and will help them get through this. And remind them that you love them and you’re proud of them.”
If you have been to your family GP and child’s school for specific advice and support but you’re struggling to get the help you need from them or from CAMHS, Hardy said to trust your instincts, “Some problems may be part of the ups and downs of child development and may resolve themselves, but if they don’t go away, don’t take no for an answer,” she said. “Be persistent, whatever that may take, and call the YoungMinds parents helpline for advice on how to make sure your concerns are taken seriously.
“And remember to look after yourself too. It is extremely hard for parents to see their children go through difficult times, and it can have a huge impact on the whole family, so make sure that you have the support you need yourself.”