For young people to reach their potential, we need to ensure services are in place to promote physical and mental wellbeing, and from an early age. Raising awareness and removing stigma around mental health is great, but if the services are not then in place to support those struggling, there’s a limit to what can be achieved.

Today in Youth Work Week, we are talking about Experiencing Positive Health and Wellbeing. On 10th October, we celebrated World Mental Health Day and as we turned our attention to social media, we found that more and more people were talking about how mental health services have failed them, time and time again. As many campaigns have focused on raising awareness and eliminating the stigma around mental health during recent times, we also see young people being more confident to speak about mental health. However, the services they require in times of need are still not there. 

The CAMHS Threshold vs Early Intervention

Under the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, we have a team of wellbeing practitioners who work with young people ages 11-19, supporting them around their mental health. These young people often access our service as they do not meet the high threshold for NHS children’s mental health services (CAMHS) and without our service would often be left with no help at all. However, our service is designed to offer intervention around mild to moderate mental health needs, and not long-term or complex issues which we are often met with. This is reflected in the timescale of our work, required by our funding, which only covers roughly 8-10 therapy sessions. Therefore, for many young people, in order to have a chance of proper recovery, far more intervention is needed. Yet in Bristol, due to lack of funding and services, this simply isn’t available. Despite our best efforts, many young people fall through the net.  

For primary school children, the situation is even worse. The services offered by us and partners such as Off The Record start at 11 years old, so the offer is even more limited. Rather than receiving suitable early intervention as soon as a problem begins to arise, children end up becoming more and more mentally unwell and only get support when they are at secondary school age and already their struggles have grown significantly. This then requires far more support to recover than they would have needed earlier in their lives, when a lighter touch service may have been enough.

The future of mental health services for young people

Providing for young people has recently gone up the policy and news agenda, with cross-party commitment to investment. We welcome these much needed announcements, as youth services have been cut across the UK by 70% since 2010, £880m cut from services for young people. 

We reach through our youth centres in Bristol and South Gloucestershire some of the most vulnerable young people living here. We build meaningful, trusting relationships which enable us to open up conversations which are much harder to have in school or elsewhere. That's why we're keen to do as much as we can to offer therapeutic support to the young people who need it the most. In the future, we are calling for each youth centre to have dedicated wellbeing practitioners equipped to deliver early intervention around mental health. We’re also calling for more investment in mental health services for the under 11s so we can prevent difficulties before they really take a hold. This will be a step in the right direction.

Do you work with young people who need mental health support? What other approaches have you found effective in delivering successful early intervention? Let us know in the comments below. 

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