Mental Health Reforms For Young People

Plans to “transform” attitudes to mental health, with a focus on children and young people, have been announced by Theresa May. Additional training for teachers, an extra £15 million for community care, and improved support in the workplace were among measures announced by the PM.

Mental health experts said more funding was needed to improve services. Mrs May’s speech comes as she outlined her plans to use the state to create a “shared society”. The government says one in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, with an annual cost of £105bn. Figures show young people are affected disproportionately with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.

The prime minister said mental health had been “dangerously disregarded” as secondary to physical health and changing that would go “right to the heart of our humanity”.

In the speech at the Charity Commission, Mrs May announced many new reforms, including:

  • Every secondary school to be offered mental health first aid training – which teaches people how to identify symptoms and help people who may be developing a mental health issue
  • Trials on strengthening links between schools and NHS specialist staff, including a review of children and adolescent services across the country
  • By 2021, no child will be sent away from their local area to receive treatment for mental health issues
  • Employers and organisations will be given additional training in supporting staff who need to take time off

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC care for children, and young people was a “black spot” that needed urgent attention as the pressures of social media, cyberbullying and a big increase in self-harming was a “massive worry for parents”. Mental health charity Sane said the plans needed to “be matched by substantially increased funds to mental health trusts” while Mind said it was “important to see the prime minister talking about mental health”, but the proof would be in the difference it made to patients’ day-to-day experiences.

Dr Sangeeta Mahajan, whose 20-year-old son Sargaar killed himself after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said better access to services was essential. “They don’t discharge patients with adequate information,” she said. “The doors were closed to us. We were told you either go to A&E or your GP, and that is the only way you can come back to us. We had no direct access back to the specialist services. That is wrong.”

Words By Hugh Pym

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