Recorded live at the first Time to change children and young people Roadshow event, London, 28/01/16
Today is the first of our four children and young people Roadshow events aimed at the voluntary sector, schools and others working with children and young people. We are privileged to have a range of speakers and young champions with lived experience of mental health problems who have kindly agreed to chat to us at today’s event.
We spoke with speakers Enver Solomon, Director of Evidence and Impact for the National Children’s Bureau, and Lorraine Khan, Associate Director for Children and Young People at the Centre for Mental Health.
- Why do you think it is important to tackle stigma and discrimination for mental health?
Enver: We need to lift the veil. Stigma and discrimination make people hide away and restrict people from being honest and open. Tackling stigma and discrimination will give young people the confidence to share and get the help they need. Stigma stops young people from being open.
Lorraine: Stigma and discrimination contribute to delays and conspiracy of silence in seeking help. This is a long term problem and acts as a ‘bottle stopper’ to what should be a common place, normal preservation of wellbeing. Stigma prevents early intervention – there is a 10 year delay in many young people first showing symptoms of mental illness and accessing services. A large proportion of that delay is the fact that for 7 years of that young people do not understand about mental health and that they may need support for what they are feeling.
- What role can the youth sector (including schools, youth clubs and voluntary sector organisations) play in supporting young people’s wellbeing and attainment?
Enver: The youth sector should play a massive role in making young people safe to be able to articulate their troubles. Young people should feel it's OK to share.
- How do you think the sector can work in a more joined up way?
Enver: Everyone that works with young people should see mental health and wellbeing as their core business. That should filter from everyone, from doctors, teachers and the police, and everybody in between. Mental health and wellbeing should equal safeguarding in its importance in the youth sectors.
- What would you like mental health provision for young people to look like in 5–10 years?
Enver: We need a universal provision to provide open, accessible and child-centered mental health provision. It should be available for children at all stages of emerging mental health problems. All the current universal services should see young people’s mental health as core business. We need well resourced, accessible and specialist services.
Lorraine: It would involve everybody owning responsibility for mental health and wellbeing. There would be treatment where there are currently gaps, for example with maternal mental health and in early schooling. Parents would feel supported to help stabilise young people’s wellbeing. Schools would be a central part of mental health provision for young people and provisions would work together. The provisions and resources would be young people led, and shaped how they want for what they need.
First off we spoke with Daniela, who has been a Time to Change champion for the last two years. We then spoke with Louise who has been volunteering with Time to Change for the last two years.
- Why do you think it’s important to tackle stigma and discrimination of mental health problems?
Daniela: It stops people from being able to get support from friends and family and even going to the doctor because there is no open conversation and people don’t feel like they can talk.
[Having a mental health problem] is a really horrible thing in itself and stigma and discrimination make it even worse.
- What impact has stigma and discrimination had on you seeking support and on your recovery?
Daniela: At one point I stopped seeking support because of the stigma from therapists and doctors and withdrew from the services completely because of the stigma I faced. This [attitude] was the same from everyone around me, including my parents. No one was saying “its’s good to get help” but instead discouraging this. My parents stopped me going to eating disorder clinic as they said my eating problem was a physical problem rather than mental health related.
Louise: When I was seeking support from work I was really worried, especially that I wouldn’t be able to be progress like the other graduates. I worried that because of my therapy session once a week that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with what I had to do. I was doing a very high achieving graduate scheme and trying to be the best I could be.
I was really lucky that it didn’t affect job and the company I worked for was brilliant but I know that I was one of the lucky ones. My family was very supportive because I spent so much time going into detail and explaining how I was feeling. I worried that my friends wouldn’t understand so I kept it to myself – I didn’t want to bore them with it.
- Why did you get involved in Time to Change?
Daniela: I knew there was no open conservation about mental health. I had symptoms of mental illness for years but didn’t know what it was. I thought it was just “part of growing up”. If it was talked about in school then maybe I would have got help sooner.
Louise: Because young people should be able to talk about mental health more openly. I feel very strongly that mental health problems can happen to anyone no matter how intelligent or from what background you are. I am a very sociable person with lots of friends and I don’t think people would have expected it to happen to me.
- Why does it matter to you that youth sector focuses on young people’s mental health?
Daniela: I don’t blame my friends for the stigma and discrimination as no one talked about it and our parents generation talked about it even less. That’s where the youth sector comes in – “to bridge that gap”.
If I got taught about it earlier, I might have sought support earlier as I would have realised that all my friends weren’t going through it too.
Louise: If we change young people’s outlook on mental health then the future generations will be more open to understanding and speaking about it. At my school nothing was offered about mental health or wellbeing. I wouldn’t have known who to go to if I had been struggling.
- What advice would you give to teachers in looking out for their pupils?
Daniela: I believe that teachers need education themselves. One of my teachers said “bipolar was when you are happy in public and then sad when you’re at home” – I was very aware that this wasn’t right. Teachers can’t look out for their pupils if they don’t know what to look for. There needs to be a safe space in schools as there is a rather large lack of that at the moment.
Louise: Teachers should make sure they give pupils opportunity to talk in a one to one setting. Students shouldn’t be forced to talk but given time and opportunity. When I was in school I was never given time in which that could happen.
To attend any of our upcoming roadshows, please click here.