Reframing mental health
There are so many reasons young people won’t get the mental health support they need. It may be a lack of services in the area, pricey treatment, or perhaps there is no one to ask. For World Mental Health Day, we look at why young people may not feel comfortable asking for help and how we can make mental health more accessible for all.
Using the word mental health
What's in a word?
For a lot of young people, ‘mental health’ isn’t something you say out loud. Perhaps their culture isn’t open about it, friends joke about it, or perhaps they’ve heard stories that misrepresent it.
There is a stigma even calling it mental health
Alexis, a practitioner at our well-being service in Birmingham says, ‘people still feel if you’re talking about mental health, it’s because there’s something wrong with you’.
changing the way we talk about mental health
We change the way we talk about mental health with young people. ‘Rather than saying “ok let’s talk about your mental health”, it’s more ‘do you have a bit of exam stress? Are you feeling under the weather?” It’s reframing it. Making it less daunting’.
‘Once they get that they can talk if they want to, they do open up and have that conversation’.
mental health and ethnicity and stigma
Identity and stigma
Our practitioners tell us that it can often be harder for young people from Black and Asian communities to visit our services. Kaira says, ‘heritage can have a big impact because of cultural differences and how mental health is sometimes perceived’.
‘Some young people use our service as a release because they can’t share how they are feeling openly with their families’.
At the same time, some young people feel that a therapist won’t ‘get them’ because of their ethnicity. Alexis says, ‘I might be better at supporting children from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community because I’m from that community. But it’s also about educating each other'.
'It's about working to help others understand and be aware of cultural differences that might affect how a young person interacts with our services and the support offered’.
Knowing where to look
Sometimes parents and carers just don’t really know where to go for mental health support. Kaira says, ‘when I was younger, I didn’t know where to go or who to go to’.
my mum didn’t really understand what depression was
We base our services in communities with diverse populations to try reach more young people. We also offer phone and online video support.
mental health and gender identity
For young people who identify differently to the gender assigned at birth, they may not reach out for fear of being judged. 'People want to speak to someone who gets them, who knows where they’re coming from’ says Kaira.
‘We have a diverse team but we also spend a lot of time discussing our practice and how not being from that community doesn’t mean we can’t support the session or young person.’
Alexis remembers working with one young person going through gender identity changes. ‘Although initially not feeling comfortable, the young person began to relax when they realised there was no judgement’.
Making mental health accessible
‘Some young people are wary of seeking mental health support because they think it’s going to follow one route. That is going from the point of asking for help to being sectioned’.
When students are referred to us from school, the clinical language used can makes them feel they’re entering a world of assessments. They are often scared and confrontational.
They see mental health as a doctor in a lab coat.
We let them know we're not here to just assess. We offer a confidential place to talk, at their pace. If they want to. Many young people are initially very wary of us but end up coming back for second and third visits.
‘For young people, it’s hard to say, “this is what is happening for me”. Whoever has that kick-off conversation, whether it’s a GP, parent, carer or teacher, needs to make it as easy as possible for them to talk about mental health. So that they feel comfortable and don’t get put off from accessing support.
Together, we can make mental health more accessible for all.