The next government must make young people's mental health a priority

As the country prepares to head to the polls for a general election, our CEO Emma Thomas emphasises the need for our next government to implement a cross-government strategy to look after young people's mental health.

In just over a month, the country will be heading to the polls to vote in the 2019 general election. Whoever forms the next government must be bold and forward-thinking in their approach to young people's mental health.

There is a mental health crisis for children and young people. The NHS is under huge pressure to keep up with growing demand and too many young people just can't get the vital support they need. Our current system is based predominantly on treatment rather than early intervention, meaning that young people with emerging mental health needs too often go neglected until they reach crisis point.

That's why our Act Early campaign has called on the next government to commit to a cross-government strategy on young people's mental health, which makes early intervention a priority. Over 70,000 people signed our petition to make sure this message is heard. Last week, we contacted all the leading political parties in England about it to make sure young people's mental health stays firmly on the agenda.

What do we mean by early support?

We want to ensure that young people have a place that they can go for information and advice, and to open up and talk about their mental health. Young people consistently tell us they want services that are accessible, inclusive, community-focused and treat them as people, not patients.

We also urge the future government to take action to address the factors that can make young people’s mental health worse, and support young people and their families to better understand and manage their mental health. We want all professionals who work with children and young people to have training on mental health and trauma, so that they can spot the signs and support a young person when they are struggling with their mental health.

Until this happens, our services will remain overstretched.

A recent YoungMinds survey with over 1,000 GPs shows that, while it’s welcome that more young people are seeking their support, GPs are often not confident that the referrals they make to CAMHS will result in the right treatment, nor do they believe that there is enough alternative community support to offer young people.  This leaves GPs under pressure as to how best to help the growing number of young people who turn to them. We know that when young people can’t get the help they need, their problems often get worse.

We have to make sure there is timely and good quality specialist support when young people need it – and there is a lot of hard work going on across the NHS to improve access to specialist services.  But to stop the escalating crisis in young people’s mental health, we need to look beyond the NHS by investing in early support.

Author: Emma Thomas, CEO

Find out more about our Act Early campaign.

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