July 10, 2018

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Millions of youth around the world experience mental ill-health which directly impacts their future ability to complete education, find employment and establish social networks and relationships.

The impact of mental ill-health on young people is significant and youth mental health services are integral early intervention pathways that are proven to improve long term outcomes.

There are a number of programs that have been developed globally, which aim to make early intervention resources more accessible to young people. From the establishment of support services to a national commitment to improve youth mental health, the following content highlights some of the latest initiatives being undertaken around the world.

Children and young people’s mental health Green Paper – United Kingdom

In late 2017, the United Kingdom (UK) Government released the Green Paper ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’. It aims to address the long wait lists and delays to access mental health services for youth and their families in the UK.

The Green Paper’s proposed reforms include:

  • Funding for a senior member of staff to lead on mental health in a “whole-school approach”
  • Training Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) that provide support to children who do not qualify for specialist NHS services
  • Four-week waiting target for specialised NHS services

The Paper has been met with mixed reviews. The British Association for Counselling and  Psychotherapy welcomed the focus on youth mental health, however were concerned about the lack of resourcing within schools to carry out the proposals. Similarly, the British Psychological Society praised the commitment to improving young people’s mental health but stressed that there needed to be a greater focus on early intervention and prevention.

“Green paper indeed had mixed reviews. Money awarded for schools is very limited and people are worried it could be raising false hopes for what schools can achieve with so little funding.” –  IEPA President Elect, Lucia Valmaggia.

Despite the criticisms, it has been a step in the right direction, and IEPA looks forward to the government further refining future models to create a robust system to support research and services for early intervention and shorter wait times for treatment, to improve mental health of UK youth.

Ucan project – Scotland, United Kingdom

The Mental Health Foundation in Scotland will be rolling out the Ucan project nationally following a number of successful trials in Glasgow. The Ucan project aims to prevent mental health problems arising in adulthood by supporting early intervention in young people. The program aims to support young people with long-term physical health conditions, like spina bifida and epilepsy, to manage their mental health.

Figures show that 30% of people with long-term conditions like arthritis and spina bifida have mental health issues.

The Ucan project will be delivered through workshops that engage young people in informative and creative activities, with early intervention as the cornerstone to the approach. The sessions will provide strategies to help them self-manage their mental health, preventing further psychological problems in adulthood.

YOULEAD – Ireland

YOULEAD, a consortium of medical researchers and health providers led by Professor Gary Donohoe from the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, have recently been awarded €1.5m of funding to establish a doctoral program to better understand the causes, treatment and delivery of services in youth mental health.

Mental health disorders (including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia) account for approximately half of all causes of disability in individuals under the age of 25 in Ireland and around the world.

The funding will help YOULEAD to improve education surrounding youth mental health including how to identify the early symptoms of a mental illness, and address the stigma that surrounds them. The team will aim to gain an insight into the barriers that prevent young people from seeking help, and findings will be used to help shape future policies and service delivery in Ireland.

Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Initiative – Victoria, Australia

Australia’s national youth mental health service, headspace, have partnered with the Victorian Government to establish the Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Initiative. $4.48m will be allocated to enable the expansion of clinical mental health services throughout Victoria for secondary students aged 12-18.

The program will also include a number of training sessions for teachers and students to help them identify and respond to mental health disorders as soon as possible.  IEPA’s treasurer and CEO of youth mental health organisation Orygen, Patrick McGorry, told The Guardian that while the funding is a positive move, more needs to be done to ensure young people don’t slip through the cracks.

“One third of those who go to headspace have illnesses or conditions that are too complex for headspace alone, and they become trapped in a bottleneck in the system where they can’t get the specialised care they need,” Professor McGorry said.

He emphasised that funding was also needed for mobile and home-based early interventions to support youth with complex needs.

To hear about other youth mental health initiatives globally view Orygen’s recent webinars

Youth mental health: Service models to improve access and outcomes for young people

ACCESS Open Minds: Transforming youth mental health in Canada (June 2018)

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