Sunday, 23 February 2014

Young people and mental illness

Recently in the news reports have come through regarding young people and mental illness.  By ‘young people’ I am referring to children, teenagers and young adults.

The first report that caught my attention was the use of police cells to section those who are at risk of harm as a result of their mental health.  While it is satisfying to know that during a mental health crisis there will be somebody to help the use of police cells almost gives the young person a sense of criminality rather than being in a place of safety.  The report said that this often happens when there are not any free psychiatric beds and the use of police cells are to keep them safe until one does become free.  Help for those with mental health problems are disgustingly low, but to hear about children spending up to twenty-four hours in a police cell is discomforting to read.
( - 26 January 2014)

The next report, although the lesser of the evil above, is still not acceptable.  Children and young people admitted for mental health problems are often referred to adult mental health wards.  Although this is only a last resort option it is still shocking to read that 350 young people under the age of 18 between 2013-14 were admitted to these adult wards, a rise of 108 from two years previous.  One patient reported how strict the rules were in the wards, meaning that friends and family could not visit her, which could only further add to her distress.
( - 20 February 2014)

In the last report AnxietyUK and YouthNet warn that young people need help with their anxiety and for it to be better recognised by their GPs, with guidelines set by the National Institute of health and Care Excellence (NICE).  Many GP’s are only prescribing medication when NICE’s guidelines instruct that psychological treatment is required as well, such as counselling.  Anxiety disorders are disruptive and constricting, in regards to getting a job and enjoy life, whilst for teenagers it can have a more sociological affect.  A girl in the report explained that she could not go to parties if there were people she did not know and she had to commute earlier to work to avoid the busy rush hour. 
( - 21 February 2014)

It is disturbing read to find out that children, teenagers and young adults are being plagued by mental illness with lack of support, whether it be from family, friends, school, work, the health system or a mixture of the above.  Young people should be concentrating their time on friends, schooling, work, future prospects and the things they enjoy, whether it be sports, music, art and more.  Young people developing a mental illness can greatly affect their life, from social isolation to lack of self confidence and self esteem, which could affect them into their adult years and, in the worst case scenario, their mental health could worsen from lack of proper support.

Whilst I argue that treating mental illnesses needs to be improved across the spectrum I believe correctly diagnosing, supporting and treating children, teenagers and young adults should be priority.  As an adult I understand how difficult it is to live with anxiety and depression and, whilst I suffered with it as a teenager, it breaks my heart to read that, ten years after my illness developed, we are still ignoring the warning signs.  Children should be able to be children, and teenagers to be teenagers, and not to miss a single day of their youth because of a mental illness.

My next blog will be giving advice to parents who have children with a mental illness and what they can do to get support themselves.

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