A young person’s perspective on mental health support
In this blog, Chris talks about the importance of young people’s views on mental health and how best to support young people in mental health services, drawing on his own experiences.
CORC’s Rachael Stemp and Chris have been working together as part of the Kailo evaluation Young People’s Advisory Group, helping to shape a research evaluation of Kailo as a way to support young people’s mental health.
- Why is it important to take into account the significance of young people's views in mental health?
More and more young people are struggling with mental health and have a lot of intergenerational differences that they have to manage, this could be affording a future living, more pressure to fit into social circles, costs of university, etc. All of these stresses are first-hand experienced by young people today and so getting their view on mental health and how they are being impacted is particularly important to take into account so that child and adolescent, as well as adult services can adapt and adopt new approaches that are more effective and actually support young people and their needs.
- What experience have you attained within the mental health support network?
Throughout my experience I have been able to take part in various mental health projects. Since being involved in mental health services as a teenager, I have built a big passion to be involved in mental health and helping others by giving my own perspective and first-hand experiences that I have faced in outpatient, day patient and inpatient services. Taking part in projects like Kailo has allowed me to fulfil these goals and acknowledge that there is so much more we can do as peers to come together and make services more suitable and effective for those that are struggling and in need of psychological support.
- What are the most important things that mental health services need to do to support young people in the future?
There is definitely a lot that needs to be done in the future for mental health services to support young people. I think the most important thing for me is to make sure that professionals within the industry are being compassionate and caring. That is the biggest and most essential quality that anyone in healthcare needs to have. Understandably there is reports of workload becoming too much for staff but aside from this, professionals and directors need to make staff less pressured so that care can be done effectively and with the person at the centre of care.
- What can be done to help young people feel more able to speak and express their feelings?
I think the biggest thing that has helped me in the past with feeling able to express myself is having someone that simply provides a space which feels supportive and non-judgemental. A open space which I find comfortable in and can go at my own pace. I think forcing someone to say something or open up about sensitive topics is challenging and will tend to not build important trust, so going at an individual’s pace whilst not judging them for saying their personal experiences would be the best thing to do in a mental health setting.
- What could be done in schools or colleges to support young people with reaching out for help?
When at school, I didn’t have any real buddy or support network in place and no one that I could really reach out to. This in turn made it really hard to know where to turn or who to turn to. It made me feel isolated and unlikely to share anything about how I am feeling to anyone at school. That being said I think that schools and colleges would really benefit from having a mandatory structure that provides students to reach out. I could see this working in the framework of having a teacher or buddy system whereby you can go to a teacher or professional at school and express how you are feeling and what is going on for you with confidentiality in mind, so that any young person feels safe to express and share their experiences and thoughts and feelings.
- What are the qualities of an individual or treatment team that you have found helpful and unhelpful?
As mentioned before, I think that from experience having someone that has been understanding and non-judgemental is hugely important for anyone that is in contact with mental health services and professionals. Alongside this I think that not being “too professional” is something that gets overlooked. Having a sense of humour, a bit of fun and general chit chat can really help build trust and connection with a mental health worker, so having the balance between being personal and professional is really important to build a high level of trust.
In terms of being unhelpful, the worst thing that you can do is to deny or neglect what anyone shares. That being said I think that being judgemental about someone’s experience and what they share is a big red flag and adds to the shame someone may feel. Avoid this at all costs as it takes a lot of courage for someone to open up about their mental health.