Young People and the Mental Health Crisis

There is no denying that we are living in very different times now. The impact of the digital age and the current Pandemic is causing huge mental health issues in our young people. I worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the area of CAMHS for nearly 18 years so I am passionate about supporting young people’s mental health. I have seen young people at their absolute worst, where they believed that there was no point in going on.  I have held their hands whilst they lay in bed wishing they were not alive anymore.

I have also seen them come out the other side of that and live to enjoy their lives again. I have been at the forefront of acute child and adolescent health long enough to know the pitfalls that exist also.

Last night I watched the BBC one Documentary Dr Alex: Our Mental Health Crisis.  I felt deeply  upon hearing all that was portrayed, brave young people disclosing how the services have absolutely failed them. Things need to change drastically. Why are we not challenging the status quo? Why are they not shouting from the rooftops the shortcomings? It is no different here in Ireland than it is in the UK, huge similarities, huge shortcomings.

 As mentioned this documentary focused on the UK services where in 2019 over 1.5 million young people were referred to CAMHS. This year here in Ireland the number of crisis presentations to our Emergency Departments have doubled, our CAMHS waiting lists are absolutely inexcusable and their admission/assessment criteria are highly questionable at times.  Nobody seems to have the answer and most of the time all we get are excuses. CAMHS is a service that is part of a system, a system that has completely failed.

To hear young people speak of the deep anguish they have felt from such young ages and then not either being believed or worse still told that there was nothing more the treating team could do for them? Oh no (head in hands) how could we ever give up that easily on our young people? Who are we to play God and say you are not worthy of being helped, you are ‘too broken’. Who are we if we cannot instil hope, courage and support.

We have school systems that are not able to cater for all styles of learning and approaches to mental health. This compounds their belief that they are not good enough and they sink further into themselves believing they do not belong, that there must be something so wrong with them and that no one can help.

The help is there but it is the access to the help that is the issue

There is some excellent work happening in CAMHS here on a daily basis and that is down to the dedication of the highly trained and brilliant staff. Some of the best I’ve ever worked with and I admire greatly. That being said the opposite is true too and that is why I believe it needs to be disbanded completely and put back together again.

But hey that’s just my opinion ;-)

Ultimately we lack thorough and ground breaking early intervention services. Now more than ever we need to roll out these initiatives before it is too late. How amazing it was to see the young people speak about their passions such as surfing, becoming an activist for mental health rights or finding a counsellor that was the right fit for them. All the  while learning about their mental health and how best to support it.

Let’s not give up on our children, no matter what you may believe about them I urge you to check in on those around you and offer them support for whenever they may need it. You don’t need to have the answers, all you need it to be present, listen, empathise and validate their feelings. Believe them and believe IN them.


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