Earlier this year, mental health hit the headlines when Netflix released the controversial series 13 Reasons Why. While the show gained praise for raising awareness on teen mental health, there was also criticism and accusations of glorifying suicide. One thing it did highlight, however, was that in a world that never switches off, young adults need more support. Lorne Gillies takes a look at what’s out there for young people who are struggling with their thoughts and feelings
Did you know that three children in every class will have experienced a mental health problem before the age of 16*? That’s a significant number of your peers who have experienced poor mental health – or maybe you struggle and think you’re alone.
As pressure is piled upon young people to stay up to date with the latest trends, with social media dictating our lives, and no escape from the scrutiny of thers, there’s no surprise it affects mental health.
“I think that now we live in a world that is just about competition, competition… We need to do this, we need academics, we’re fighting for jobs, everyone’s stressed,” explains Erin, a 19 year-old student teacher who has experienced severe bouts of bulimia and depression since she was 13.
Revision for exams, anxiety on results day, maintaining a social life and discovering your own mind – being a teenager is difficult. A recent study** by University of St Andrew’s revealed that 80% of 15 year-old girls and 60% of boys of the same age felt pressured by schoolwork – a factor that can be affected by poor mental health. Erin says: “If your mental health isn’t being treated well how are you expected to perform well academically? … At school I was thinking, ‘I’m not feeling too well in my own head, how do you expect me to take on the stress that everyone goes through?’”
Social media is another major player on negative mental health. Chloe Bellany, campaign officer at the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), says: “We do think that modern life can be quite difficult for young people. Things like social media, being online all the time, the nature of that. Body image pressure around social media is a huge problem, stress form school and exams.” And more support is required for young people.
Going to be
In a bid to improve services across Scotland for young people’s mental health, SAMH have launched the Going to Be campaign. There are three key government asks from Going to Be: to create a programme where all school staff are trained in mental health; provide counselling services in all secondary schools; and improvements to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Recently, services provided to support young people have come under scrutiny. In Scotland, GPs and teachers can refer someone to CAMHS – an organisation that assess the emotional and behavioural health of children and young people. However, a recent report*** has shown that of the 8,730 young people referred to CAMHS, usually by their GP, almost 7,000 were rejected with no information why, highlighting issues faced by the service.
Erin explains: “I had really good teachers who set up CAMHS for me. What really annoys me now, I feel there is a big gap in the system. There is no system for 17 to 21, there’s a big gap between going to an adult unit… You could go to CAMHS and get support and then all of a sudden you’re in university. I just felt like I went right back to where I had fought really hard to get out.”
Chloe adds: “We would like there to be a specialised service for 16 to 25-year-olds. We want them to get the option to stay in the child and adolescent services until they’re 25.”
Going to Be is dedicated to ensuring that young people know where to go when they’re experiencing a mental health problem. “What we can do is make sure that when they need help they know where to get it from, they’re able to access it easily, that they’re able to get all of the support they need and go on to live a life they normally would,” explains Chloe.
Through improved support from education services, peers and mental health providers, including CAMHS, young people can be assisted with their mental health. Currently there are trained professionals available to support you, or a friend, if you feel stressed, anxious, depressed or living with other mental illnesses.
Erin is now confident enough to speak about her mental health journey – and finds it a good way to support her recovery, alongside reading other people’s experiences. “I love seeing quotes and seeing someone else write about [their experience]. Sometimes you can’t put into words how you’re feeling but when someone else puts it into words, it does make you feel that you’re not alone in it,” says Erin.
“Every single person has mental health but we don’t all have mental health issues,” concludes Erin, and it is important that we know where to go for help. Chloe adds: “We would always recommend people speak to their GP in the first instance. Students may have counsellors at their student or university is also a good person to speak to.” There is also guidance for doctors appointments on the SAMH website for those who are anxious about attending.
Without the support of teachers and mental health services, Erin would not be able to speak openly about her journey. As the Going to Be campaign works to ensure schools and services support young people, it is only a matter of time before all young people have a mental health provider to assist them with their needs.
SAMH – www.samg.org.uk
ChildLine – 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk
Samaritans – 116 123 and www.samaritans.org
Young Minds – www.youngminds.org.uk