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The Project Responds to Theresa May’s Pledge to Provide More Support for Young People with Mental Health Problems

On Monday 9th January, Prime Minster Theresa May announced her intention to provide more support for children and young people with mental health problems (see the BBC report here). Her proposals include providing more mental health awareness training for teachers and helping schools to link up with mental health experts in their areas.

She also pledged to address the “inadequate” treatment of people with mental health problems, including the necessity for many children to travel a long way from home to receive treatment. Mental health problems “affect people of all ages and all backgrounds,” she says, and “All of us need to do more to support all of our mental wellbeing.”

In response, The Project founder Debbie Humberstone says “we welcome this advancement, but hope it translates to improvements in frontline services.” She points out that in 2014, the government Health Select Committee’s third report on children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) recommended early intervention, but we are yet to see results. It states:

Early intervention services, including those delivered by voluntary sector organisations-whether these are drop-in services offering support to young people, parenting support programmes, or school-based interventions, can make a crucial contribution to preventing mental health problems from developing or escalating. However we have heard evidence of significant disinvestment in such services, despite evidence of their importance. Where they have been able to sustain services, some voluntary sector organisations report very fragile funding arrangements and great uncertainty over their future sustainability, despite evidence of growing demand for their services.

Investing in early intervention services should be the government’s top priority. With more funding, these services can empower children and young people to seek help before their mental health deteriorates to the extent that it becomes a crisis. This would prevent a lot of distress and be more cost-effective in the long term.

The Project offers such early intervention services, including its support groups for young people with mental health problems. We also work with schools, delivering workshops which help to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. This makes it easier for people with mental health problems to speak out and get the support they need.

While any improvement in mental health awareness and treatment is a positive step, we are concerned that expert recommendations such as those flagged up by the Health Select Committee are not being implemented. Announcing new measures is easy, but following through is another matter. Based on the government’s past performance, we are sceptical, but also hopeful about the prospect of real change.

The fact remains that more support is needed for children and young people with mental health problems and we will continue to campaign for its provision. In the meantime, The Project will do its best to provide help and support wherever we can.

This blog post was written by Hayley Jones, writer at Resurfacing and Rewriting and dedicated volunteer at The Project.

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