Over the past three years, Healthwatch England heard from over 20,000 young people about their experiences of mental health support. To gain a deeper understanding of these 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.1
What affects young people's mental health?
Stigma - Stigma is still an issue and young people often bottle up their feelings until they reach crisis point.
Pressures - Young people feel under pressure to succeed and can feel stressed due to external factors like exams, as well as peer pressure and pressure they place on themselves.
Social media - Social media can be a trigger for poor mental health. However, they felt this could be used positively to raise awareness, reduce stigma and build online communities.
Gender and gender-specific triggers. Young men commented that 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 commented that self-esteem and pressures around body image are a common trigger.
What are young people’s current experiences of mental health care?
- Long waiting times and insufficient support are ongoing issues, though young people recognised the system is under pressure.
- Schools and universities don’t always provide the kind of support they are looking for, with come commenting on the negative consequences they experienced as a result.
- Young people don’t feel they’re taken seriously when they reach out for help. Some told how adults dismissed their concerns as “just a phase” or “normal for teenagers”. Others said they felt patronised by the information they are given about how to seek support.
What do young people want their mental health support to look like?
1. Better education and communication
Young people want:
- Ongoing support for their emotional wellbeing including preventative check-ins and longer term follow-up to treatment.
- Realistic and responsible portrayals of mental health in the media to improve awareness and decrease stigma.
- Mental health on school curriculums from Year 7.
- Mental health awareness and fundraising days in schools.
- Regular mental health check-ups offered to all young people every 6 months.
2. More options and personalised care
Young people want:
- As many mental health care options as possible, including different drug treatments, talking therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness.
- More options for where they can be treated and timing of appointments, such as innovative community or online services, which they can access 24/7.
- To see the same health professional, so they don’t have to explain their story multiple times.
- More school and university counsellors who are trained in several types of therapy, so they can provide people with more options for treatment.
- To feel they’re being truly listened to by health professionals and that what they say will be kept confidential.
- Transitions from Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services to adult mental health care to be personalised, and there should be flexibility on when the transition takes place depending on each person’s unique journey.
3. Peer support
Young people want:
- 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.