Posted: 21 May 2020

Could mental health support be easier to access?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we want to make sure young people's voices are being heard. Through listening to young people, we know that many struggle to get the support they need when living with a mental health issue. 

Our report from earlier this year, Waiting in Line documents what various different young people told us about their experiences with mental health support.

One of the young people we met was called Tom and he was very open about his experiences with NHS Child and Young People's Mental Health Services (CYPMHS), or CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) as it is commonly referred to.

'When they are helping it does help but when it's not working right it just makes you feel even worse.'

This is how Tom described his experiences of accessing mental health support from CAMHS when we met him for a chat.

Tom is 16 and is at college studying for his a-levels. Tom describes having a particularly tough time in secondary school following a family bereavement. Knowing that Tom was struggling, his Mum took him to the GP and a referral was made to CAMHS.

Tom had never heard of CAMHS before. He didn’t know that the appointments would be about his mental health and that he would be expected to talk about this. When he found this out, he was reluctant to attend.

'I don't want to go...'

‘I was like ok this is a normal doctors. And then when my mum sat me down and explained it I was like, no, I don’t want to go…when my mum told me it was to do with mental health and whatnot that’s what kind of annoyed me.’

Despite this, Tom attended his first appointment and began to meet regularly with his therapist. But after a few sessions, he was discharged from the service.  

‘I guess I felt a little bit sad because I felt like I was on my own again.’

I ask Tom how he easy he finds it to talk about his mental health. He tells me he finds it hard to open up about his mental health difficulties out of fear of what others would think of him.

‘Because I feel like inside someone’s head they’re probably, like, laughing at me. So that’s why I don’t really open up to someone.'

'It's like everyone just hides it away'

Tom tells me he thinks that people need to be more open in talking about their mental health so that young people find it easier to ask for help.

‘Like more people just being more open about it in general. It’s like everyone just like hides it away.’

As our chat comes to an end, I take the opportunity to ask what he thinks needs to change to improve mental health services for children and young people.

‘Make it way easier for them [young people]...and make it more friendly for them.’

I say goodbye Tom and make my way home. Not for the first time in my conversations with young people I am struck how all the young people we have spoken to want to create positive change for others.

As Tom and others have consistently told us, we need to make it easier for young people to access support with their mental health. Services should be located in areas where young people are, that are easily accessible and visible. They should be about choice and flexibility.

If we really want to create effective change in mental health services then it is crucial that we listen to the stories of young people like Tom.


By Charlotte Rainer - Policy team

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