Posted: 11 February 2020

Supporting young people in mental health crisis

Right now, the mental health support available for children and young people is simply not adequate. Children with serious mental health problems wait months to get help, and every year thousands are turned away from specialist services without further support.

For young people in mental health crisis, our Safe Zones service in Greater Manchester provides a calm, friendly place where they can get support. We spoke to Felicity, a Safe Zones emotional health and well-being worker, to learn more.

Why is Safe Zones needed?

This service is necessary because there is a shortfall in support for young people who experience mental health crisis. Hospital A&E departments are not suitable for young people who are in crisis - they need somewhere where they can feel safe and heard. This is what Safe Zones provides. 

Have you noticed any worrying trends in the number of young people experiencing mental health crisis?

Yes - I recently read a report written by the Education Policy Institute which found that since 2015 one in four children and young people referred to mental health services is turned down for treatment.

‘Despite the £1.4bn of extra spending over five years announced in 2015, the proportion of rejected referrals has not changed since we started collecting this information four years ago’ - Education Policy Institute

This makes Safe Zones even more vital in order to make a difference in the access to support for young people. The referrals which are being rejected could potentially be picked up by Safe Zones.

How do Safe Zones support parents and guardians when a young person is experiencing a mental health crisis? 

Safe Zones adopt a whole family approach, which gives us the opportunity to offer support to parents and guardians. 

Sometimes this can be while the young person is having a session with another worker - they can attend one of our parent/carer drop-in sessions or sign up to one of our workshops. 

'We are highly motivated in equipping the whole family with the tools they need to support not just their young person but themselves too.'

What is the best part of your job?

For me, the best part of the job is when a young person comes back for their next appointment. I feel this is such a huge step for them in such a difficult time and for them to attend again speaks volumes. This can have such an impact. It means a lot to both sides and to know that you are having some kind of impact, however small it may be, makes this job the best.

What has been the most memorable highlight so far?

As we are a new service I would have to say the most memorable highlight to date is when we officially went live and received our first referral regarding a young man.

This was obviously memorable because it was our first referral. However, the fact that it was for a young man, for me, made it more special, taking into account the increased awareness now around men’s mental health.

'It was great to be able to work with a young man who was seeking help.'

What are your hopes for the future and the young people who use your service?

My hope for the future of Safe Zones is to grow bigger. It would be phenomenal to have a Safe Zone in each borough across Greater Manchester to improve access.

We are also hopeful that we can open up our referral routes so that it is easier for young people to refer in, with the possibility of self-referral also. We’d also like to operate drop-in capabilities for all in the future 

As far as the young people who have used the service, we are incredibly keen to receive their feedback along with their help to shape the future of Safe Zones.

We will be recruiting young people for a steering group who will meet regularly, and would also like to involve young people in future staff recruitment and with running workshops and groups within Safe Zones.

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