Following many months of representation, research and long sessions in Committee rooms involving The MindEd Trust and several, marvellous sector advocates, the recent NHS Long Term Plan sets out a dramatic increase in mental health spending for young people, a reduction in waiting times, better community care, the ratification and funding of the national Zero Suicide Alliance, the redefinition of young people to be those aged up to 25 and crucially, the creation of support after suicide services in every part of the country.
It is a Plan and plans need implementing, but there is more in this document and vision regarding mental health and suicide prevention than there has ever been before. The photo below (of the National Suicide Prevention Group) shows some of the dedicated campaigners, thought leaders, academics, civil servants and politicians who have made this happen. It is not glamorous. It is hard work, emanating from bone-crushing tragedy. Nor is it by any means perfect. If realised however, many lives will be saved and much misery averted. In the memory of our dear son Edward Mallen, please share.
“The NHS is only really capable of dealing with people in crisis and this they are struggling with badly owing to burgeoning demand, cost constraints and under resourcing. In many Trusts, the barriers to entry are increasing, GP referrals are being refused and clinicians are being forced to raise the severity levels at which treatment can be offered in the face of static or reducing resources and rising demand. You have to be ever more ill to secure treatment which itself is beset by unacceptable waiting lists and limited care pathways under the IAPT/CAMHS programme. The situation is thus worsening rather than improving.
With people in crisis, not only are individuals impaired, but so too are their families and communities, sometimes for years. The road to recovery from crisis is long, very expensive and typically exhibits a high probability of recurrence. The political, economic and social cost is enormous, to say nothing of the loss to society inherent in multiple impaired life paths, loss of economic contribution and the increased burden on social support systems.
Following extensive research and consultation, The Trust believes that, in order to both eradicate stigma and develop effective in-school and community mental health programmes, every youth and young adult organisation needs to initiate a mindEducation “journey”. Stigma will only be destroyed via inclusive programmes which embrace all stakeholders, including not just young people, but teachers, parents, health professionals and managers. It is only by talking openly and widely about mental health that we will effect a long overdue paradigm shift in mental health perception and a change in social values.
Every school and youth organisation is different. With 75% of all mental illness pre-dating higher education and less than 10% of all current mental health funding directed to this demographic, there is a desperate need to improve mental health literacy and resilience in every educational establishment. However, there are no “quick fixes” and “one size fits all” solutions. In order to be effective, a mindEducation programme has to be multi-faceted and deeply embedded into the practice and consciousness of an organisation. At the same time, programmes have to be customised and focused on the specific needs, characteristics and resources of each participating organisation from primary education through to higher education and beyond.