Tackling mental health care for young people is one of society’s toughest challenges and we must face it head on

Feeling ‘healthy’ for so many of us makes us think of whether we have a cold or a headache, something with a physical cause – we don’t immediately think of our mental well-being.

But, having a clean bill of mental health is something we all need to keep in mind, especially for young people across the country.

They can be the very picture of fitness on the surface, but inside they can be struggling with self-doubt, anxiety and depression – all those emotions and feelings that can run amok as you grow up.

Add to this the pressures placed on them by society and, increasingly, social media and these problems can come to control or even ruin their lives. Around half of mental illness starts before the age of 14 and many young people feel they have to face it on their own without any support.

That is why we need to make sure that every young person, no matter where they live, can have access to mental health services and why the announcement by the Government this week reflects the priority it should be given.

This newest plan will invest £300 million in taking mental health care into schools and make it readily available on the ‘front-line’, so to speak. The creation of mental health support teams working in and directly with schools, training of senior staff to improve prevention work, and mental health awareness being offered in every primary and secondary school will hopefully give young people an outlet where they can discuss their problems.

The plan will also aim to help young people have better and faster access to NHS children and young people services with a new four-week waiting time.

This is just the latest in a series of strategies to deliver better and more effective mental health services and as such the area has seen an increase of £1.4 billion in funding in real-terms across the NHS compared to three years ago.

This has supported an increase in the number of beds in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for severe cases across the country, placed specialist mental health teams in A&E, and has worked towards creating waiting-time targets in the same way we wait for operations.

This represents great progress, but there is still some way to go. We need to make sure that any young person, at any age, has a trained professional they can speak to and help them deal with any issues before they come to define who they are and what they can achieve.

We are at a turning point in how we tackle young people’s mental health issues, and it’s a challenge we must not shy away from. Plans like the one unveiled this week are pivotal in helping us to change both how we think about good mental health and what we can do to support it.

If you have any questions about this issue then please do email me at sam@samgyimah.com