This month, the Mental Health Foundation is set to launch a new campaign to highlight teenage mental health issues and encourage young people to help each other – increasing peer support and breaking down the barriers and stigma associated with speaking out about mental ill-health. The #MindsMatter campaign will seek to encourage members of the public, as well as providers and policy makers, to promote the issue of teenage mental health and bring it to the public’s attention.
Here in London, where there are enough under 16s with a mental health condition to fill 3,700 classrooms but where only around one in four young people are accessing support, this is an important issue that needs talking about.
The Mental Health Foundation’s campaign is being led by two young women who have already shared their own experiences of mental ill-health. At the age of 15, Sophia was experiencing all the usual pressures of growing up at secondary school – school work, parents, relationships – but dealing with all this along with Anorexia Nervosa caused a real problem. Luckily, Sophia was able to recover rapidly due to the help of her parents, her best friend Amber, and a psychologist. However the experience led to Sophia and Amber beginning a campaign to improve mental health services and education in schools. Together, Sophia and Amber are working with the Mental Health Foundation to improve school mental health services across the country and make young people aware that there is assistance there for them when needed.
“Understanding the pressures facing today’s children and young people, including those challenges relating to their digital lives, means we can better support them and this is one of our main priorities as a Group,” said Paul Jenkins, vice chair of the Cavendish Square Group.
“In London, we have a strong track record of including the people who will use our services in making decisions around the development of those services – from self-diagnostic tools developed with, and for, primary school children in Greenwich, through to developing models of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) which put young people at the centre of decisions about their care. We believe that mental health difficulties are part of a wider picture, and that every aspect of a young person’s life and experience are important to mental health. This means it’s all the more important that specialist mental health services such as CAMHS work closely with organisations in the voluntary and education sectors to ensure a joined up and integrated approach to well-being.
“That’s why we’re encouraging London’s young people to engage with the #MindsMatter campaign to help break down the stigma associated with talking about mental ill-health and empower those young people who may be struggling to come forward and seek help”.
Mark Rowland, director of the Mental Health Foundation explains “Only this weekend we have seen a survey released by the Association of School and College Leaders flagging that more young people are living with mental health problems yet the access to support on offer is not keeping pace. Schools are well positioned to be at the forefront of the prevention revolution, equipping students with the knowledge to support their emotional wellbeing.
“We know that peer support can be highly effective for those at risk of mental ill health. By working with young people we have been able to create a group process where myths and stigma can be challenged, in turn helping to develop young people's sense of connectedness and responsibility for each other.
“I believe this is a ground-breaking opportunity for students to discuss and understand mental health issues in a safe forum. The programme develops life skills which are the foundation of resilience to mental health problems. It is a programme of work that we aim to roll-out more widely.”