Designing mental health care for young people

To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, one young man talks about how he is using his experiences to help others:

When I look back at how mental health has been addressed over my life at school, I have to say the information given is rather pathetic.

All I really remember is being taught in school that if someone is talking about their mental health, it is because they have a ‘problem’; and that if someone has a mental health problem they are either depressed or just crazy.

It is only now that I see how poor the information on this subject has been and I can’t blame the teachers because they don’t properly know the problems themselves.

Everyone has mental health. It is just like your physical health and you need to monitor it and work on it every so often.

Teenage life is really stressful: exams, parents, personal image, social media. It’s exhausting, and yet when people are struggling with these issues, we tend to either ignore them or treat it as if that one person has a problem, even if there are many people who are struggling with an issue. I also struggled with the stress of ‘what next’ hanging over me as I have no clue what career I want to go into or where to go after school. This anxiety needs to be dealt with.

We need to change is how we talk about mental health and how we deal with it. Everyone can relate to school struggles to a certain extent, so why can’t we talk about it? Teachers see hundreds of pupils go through this anxiety and have been through it themselves.

We also need to rid ourselves of the stigma around mental health. It does not mean you are crazy, or alone, there are hundreds of people who are facing the same problems and there are some great services that can provide support.

Some of you may be thinking, who is this guy and why should I even listen to what he has to say? I am not going to say that I’ve had lots of problems personally, although I have had my fair share of school and social life stress, but I am thankful it hasn’t got out of hand. I do, however, have family and friends who I have supported through severe mental health problems.

A few years ago, I had a friend who seemed like everyone else, worked at school, talked to everyone, you wouldn’t have guessed anything was wrong. But then they opened up to me. As a friend I supported them but, despite my best efforts, they refused seek professional help because they felt they would be judged, treated like a weirdo, locked up in some institution.

There are thousands of young people like this, people who are struggling in silence, too afraid to speak due to the fear of being labelled and judged.

But there are people out there who can help. Professionals who care for your happiness and well-being.

There is a branch of the NHS solely focused on supporting young people. These projects have been created and designed by young people, for young people.

The one I have been involved with is the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), which has a fantastic project for young people called MyMind, with both an app and a website to support young people.

One of the biggest things coming out of research is that a lot of young people think they would have long, continuous therapy or something like that, but that is not the case. The treatment given is designed around you. If you feel like you just need a little bit of help, there are hundreds of resources available, so you don’t even have to talk to, or tell anyone if you really don’t want to. It’s all about giving some trust and independence to young people. The amount of treatment you have is all down to you.

Finally, if you ever have any ideas or suggestions on how to improve anything, communication is always welcome because the services are designed for young people, and so it is only fair that young people have a say.

Joseph Pascoe

Joseph Pascoe is currently studying A-level maths, physics, chemistry, and English literature at sixth form.

He is using his personal experiences with mental health issues to help the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) Youth Council and working with the Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service.