MP convenes summit on teenage mental health
A local summit on teenage mental health was convened by Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert at Steyning Grammar School on Friday (24 November).
Mr Herbert welcomed senior representatives from local organisations with a responsibility for delivering mental health support to children and young people. The roundtable discussion took place with an audience of teenagers and families who have all been affected.
The MP invited his young constituents Jake Boase and Lily Parsons to open the discussion by sharing their stories. They both spoke with courage and openness about their personal experiences of navigating mental health support.
The discussion continued by looking at the rising demand for support services and the reasons why more young people are struggling with their mental health. 10 per cent of children aged 5 to 16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, and half of mental health conditions start before the age of 14.
Social media and a ‘bombardment of information’ through the internet was one of the many reasons given for more young people struggling now. The need for prevention was also discussed, with many children being taught about emotional wellbeing and resilience in schools.
The local agencies welcomed the opportunity to hear from young people, and they discussed what more could be done, including clearer signposting to support services and making them as accessible as possible.
West Sussex County Council and the GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have responsibility for jointly commissioning services locally. They are investing £5 million of government funding via the NHS into local services, part of the Government’s announcement last year of an extra £1.4 billion to prioritise mental health.
County Councillor Stephen Hillier, Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, tweeted: “A superb initiative .... Thoroughly worthwhile and a lot to chew over.”
Nick Wergan, Headteacher at Steyning Grammar School, said: "The stories from young people who have struggled to find support for mental health issues echoed with the experiences we know face too many young people in 2017 - it is long time that the stigma surrounding mental health was removed. All agencies attending recognised we can do more to provide improved, joined-up and better signposted support for those experiencing mental health issues. It is also time to deepen prevention work too, supporting young people in mental health understanding and resilience."
Sue Torry, GP and Clinical Lead Mental Health at Coastal West Sussex CCG, said: “It is so important that we listen to young people and their families, and use their experiences to design services in a way that makes support accessible, the level of care that they need, and services that young people will engage with. This event reinforced how vital this is, and gave us all a great opportunity to talk to local young people about what they need and how we can further improve local support.
“We know that this is such an important area of our work, and those present, especially teachers, talked about the growing numbers of young people who are struggling with their mental health.
"We need to take steps as a whole system in partnership to address this now and do all we can to support our young people, both with the services they may need now, but also to help them to manage the pressures and challenges of growing up before they need formal support.
"This is not about individual services working on their own; we all need to work together, and bring our skills together.
"Not only is this about expanding key services, but also focusing as a community on prevention, early intervention, and support for families and those that work with young people, aiming to reduce those that need services in the future."
Nick Herbert said: "I am very grateful to everyone who supported the summit, but especially to Jake and Lily who inspired me to convene it. All of us were struck by their stotires of the difficulty they had in getting help when they were unwell, and this must change."
“There is now more attention and resources for the neglected issue of mental health, and this is clearly much needed to ensure that every young person who needs support can access it.
“One of the key messages from the parents and young people affected by mental health problems was that we must talk about it and overcome stigma. I hope that my summit played a part in this, and I will continue to make teenage mental a priority issue.”
1. Photograph – Summit meeting at Steyning Grammar School. Nick Herbert (centre).
2. To read Nick’s news release announcing the Teenage Mental Health Summit see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/787/mp-to-hold-teenage-mental-health-summit.