Government’s Response To Youth Mental Health Crisis Will Fail A Generation
In England, right now, we are experiencing a youth mental health crisis of epidemic proportions, so much so, the World Health Organisation says finding solutions is a ‘global imperative’.
On World Mental Health Day (10 October) Theresa May PM announced she would be appointing Jackie Doyle-Price MP as the new Minister for Suicide Prevention.
A ‘thrilled’ Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) said he has ‘high hopes’ the Minister will de-stigmatise suicide and build support for those affected ‘through shining a light on suicide and its devastating effects’ in Parliament.
But others feel there is still a long, long way to go to achieving the country’s mission of ‘zero suicide’.
One such person is Lucy Dynes, the best friend of Amy Jayne Morby (pictured above), who took her own life in September aged just 23.
Dynes, also 23 and from Cornwall, told UNILAD she and others in her social circle have ‘mixed feelings’ about the appointment.
Amy had been admitted to hospital 10 times since January 2018 for mental health related ailments and self-harm.
Despite the best efforts of the hard-working doctors and nurses in the critical care unit who tried to save Amy, Dynes believes her friend’s life could have been saved many times over with better mental health and suicide prevention services.
Dynes told UNILAD Amy felt her cries for help were left largely unheard by overworked NHS staff, amid overrun A&E departments, advice leaflets, and what Dynes alleges were six-week waiting times for referral to mental health services.
The Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are conducting a full review into Amy’s care.
Meanwhile Dynes, who has since been raising awareness for the lack of mental health funding in the UK and fundraising to help Amy’s family cover funeral costs, worries Ms May’s appointment could be ‘a tactical move which won’t have much impact on the ground’.
The bereaved young woman added:
I can’t help but think about the wage [the minister] will be on compared to the lack of funding mental health receives within the NHS.
We need more funding put in to prevention centres like Valued Lives in Redruth, more funding for a&e so staff who are dealing with mental health patients have more time to give to them and really listen to what’s going on.
And better training for all medical professionals about how to deal with people with mental health issues and how to prevent getting to the point of needing A&E treatment.
Amy’s story isn’t uncommon. In fact, suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK.
More than 90 per cent of suicides and suicide attempts having been found to be associated with a mental illness, and yet statistics show only 27 per cent of people who died by suicide between 2005 and 2015 had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died.
If you’re feeling suicidal, help can be found in many different places.
One man, Kevin Briggs, has stopped hundreds of people ending their lives on the Golden Gate Bridge. Organisations such as Zero Suicide Alliance offer free 20-minute suicide prevention training to all online.
Joy Hibbins of Suicide Crisis has achieved a zero suicide rate at her centre in Gloucester.
But more needs to be done to end the suicide crisis at the root – and the government has a duty of care to empower organisations and people to care for our collective state of mind.
Did you know half of the nation’s mental health problems are established before the sufferer turns 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24?
Currently 10 percent of young people suffer with anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders or other diagnosable mental health conditions.
Yet three quarters of those young people who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, a young person waits, on average, a decade from the moment they suffer their first symptom of poor mental health to get any kind of treatment.
Undoubtedly, if the bi-partisan Minister for Suicide Prevention wishes to rid the country of this invisible killer, the Conservative representative for Thurrock must ensure better mental health services.
It’s fair to predict she will fail to acknowledge the connection between Conservative austerity measures and mental illness, as did Minister for Loneliness, Tracey Crouch MP, when pressed by UNILAD on Mental Health Awareness Week about the Campaign to End Loneliness and it’s lack of provision for young people.
It’s so important to stop these ailments early, the World Federation of Mental Health decided this year World Mental Health Day would focus solely on young people’s mental health.
The iGeneration faces challenges unfamiliar to their predecessors and are growing up in an online world made up of equal parts joy and threat; a world with a language not native to their parents and caregivers.
Likewise, the ruling elite don’t truly understand what it’s like to have grown up with online bullying, body-shaming, and the glamorisation of mental illness coming from the device in your pockets 24/7, exacerbating pre-existing mental health conditions and sometimes creating new ones.
Speak of the devil: Jeremy Hunt MP promised to ‘transform’ government attitudes and strategy in a multi-year path to combat the adverse effects of mental illness nationwide for all people from all walks of life.
But on 9th May 2018 two committees of MPs published a report saying his plans will take too long to come into effect and will ‘fail a generation’ through complacency and inadequacy.
Nicky Fearon, Head of Student Mental Health and Wellbeing at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust told UNILAD the government do ‘appear to be listening to experts, young people and their families’ and ‘clearly understand the need to offer increased investment in in early intervention and prevention strategies’ to help improve young people’s mental health.
Fearon, agreeing this is a multi-agency responsibility, added:
Unfortunately, at this point, in the recent Green paper they have taken a very narrow view of how to do this, assuming all young people are in education and will engage with support in schools.
Sadly, we know all young people are not in school and the investment and remit for early intervention should perhaps be cast wider to reach the ‘hard to reach’ children and families.
There also remains a gap for older adolescent’s mental health, who neither fit into current models of mental health services when they present with more complex needs which require coordinated multi agency input.
Moreover, Ruth Sutherland, the CEO of Samaritans told UNILAD this country has a problem with under-reporting suicides, which impacts greatly on suicide prevention research and has a knock-on effect on the government’s interpretation of what emergency services are needed by who and when.
Speaking to UNILAD on Suicide Awareness Week, Madeleine Moon MP, the Chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention, said she feels ‘certain’ some suicides were missed in the past ‘as part of national statistics’.
Moon echoed Fearon’s concerns, saying the mission for ‘zero suicide’ has to go far beyond the school gates:
The Government have a responsibility for coordination. It is important that all of the agencies involved in suicide prevention work together.
The police, heath staff, coroners, third sector organisations, Local Authorities, media, academics, as well as political figures, locally and nationally, have a role to play.
No one agency carries full responsibility or capability to tackle suicide, which is why suicide prevention planning is vital at both a local and national level.
Fearon, who runs an initiative called The Life Rooms also noted the ‘prevalence of need’ data used in commissioning children and adolescent mental health services is ‘grossly out of date’.
This is currently being updated and due to be reported on next year. By that time, how many lives will be ruined by mental illness?
Indeed, in response to a letter sent by UNILAD to Mr Hunt requesting shorter waiting times and better care for young people like Amy on the NHS, Malcolm Jones of Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries replied saying ‘unfortunately, this process cannot happen overnight’.
A new four-week waiting time for ‘urgent care’ – the oxymoronic notion is lost on no one – will be rolled out to a fifth of the country by the end of 2023, with the rest of the country getting a look in after evaluation and if funding is secured in the next spending review.
It’s going to be a long road ahead, clearly. Meanwhile each suicide costs the country £1.67 million, not to mention the emotional turmoil of those affected, and it’s not like the public isn’t calling for better mental health for all.
An incredible 400,000 people signed CALM and #Project84’s petition demanding the appointment of a Minister for Suicide Prevention, and it’s is undoubtedly a landmark victory for mental health campaigners.
Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, told UNILAD:
As a part of CALM’s #Project84 campaign in March and together with Matthew Smith who lost his brother to suicide, we launched a petition calling for a Minister for Suicide Prevention.
We did so with the aim that, through real government action, significantly fewer families would have to experience the trauma that Matthew’s family lived through and fewer people would feel life was not worth living.
As well as the appointment, the government has awarded £2 million in funding for the Zero Suicide Alliance to improve suicide awareness and training, with development of an innovative digital suicide prevention resource and cutting edge use of analytics to predict suicide risk in the pipeline.
Joe Rafferty, a founding member of the Zero Suicide Alliance and Chief Executive of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust – the first NHS trust in the country to declare a policy of ‘zero suicide’ for people in its care – welcomes the appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as the first ever Ministerial Lead for Suicide Prevention.
Rafferty told UNILAD the appointment is a ‘step in the right direction’ as her brief will be to work across national and local government, with suicide and self-harm prevention experts, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide.
The recent funding pledge for Zero Suicide Alliance is in addition to the £25 million in suicide prevention funding announced in 2016. As part of this investment, NHS England is working with mental health trusts to implement zero suicide policies for inpatients and improve safety on wards.
The future holds hope for sufferers of mental illness and suicidal thoughts, but it’s too little too late for the likes of Amy.
UNILAD has contacted Jackie Doyle-Price MP and is awaiting reply.
World Mental Health Day Action campaign UNILAD
Presented by the World Federation of Mental Health, World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on 10 October. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness.
Talking is often the first step to moving forward. While talking about mental health is vital, UNILAD are calling for action.
We are petitioning the government to improve mental health services offered on the NHS for young people, who sometimes have to wait ten years from the moment they experience their first symptoms to get adequate treatment.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year.
Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.