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The Importance of World Mental Health Day

It is the 10th of October 2018 and it is world mental health day. Today is a day to focus on the third SDG: ‘Good health and well-being for people’. This year’s theme has its focus on the people who will be our future. Its called “Young people and mental health in a changing world”. Because of this, I considered it relevant to give you the scope of what is going on in the policies about mental health in Scotland today.

To give you some background info as to why the World Health Organisation (WHO) has decided to focus on young peoples mind on this day, I have provided a list of their key facts regarding young peoples mental health.

  • 50% of all mental illness begins at age 14 and most cases go undetected and untreated.

  • One in six people with a mental illness are aged 10-19.

  • 16 % of the global burden of disease and injury is due to mental health issues.

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds.

  • Leaving mental illness untreated in young people will have it transfer to adulthood and will impact the quality of life in adulthood.

  • Depression is one of the major causes of illness and disability amongst young people globally.

‘Our Generations Epidemic’, a report from 2016 by the Scottish Youth Parliament and based on a survey and a focus group of people aged 12 - 25, states that 74% of young people don't know what informational resources and mental health services are available in their area. The problem seemed to be that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and that intervention only happens once it reaches a critical stage. Fear of discrimination, false assumptions about being attention seeking, being ignored or jeopardising future employment also works as mental barriers for young people to seek help and talk about their issues. The report stated that young people want to see an improvement in how we talk about mental health in educational institutions. They also want to increase the competence of dealing with mental health issues amongst people working in these environments. It is also of importance to have young people involved in developing mental health services so that they can be specifically tailored to young peoples needs.

So have young people been listened to since 2016? The answer is both yes and no. As a response to an increasing demand, the Scottish government launched their ‘Mental Health Strategy 2017 - 2027’ in March 2017. The plan states that “prevention and early intervention are key to minimising (…) prevalence of poor mental health and the severity and life time impact of mental disorders and mental illnesses.”. Every child and young person should have appropriate access to support in school. Parenting programmes, support, treatment and training for non-mental health staff should also be available across Scotland. The plan also aims at making training in first aid approaches for mental health as common as physical first aid. However, we do have a problem in politics and it is that everything is severely impacted by how the government distributes the budget. It is difficult to mitigate between many important issues.

Nevertheless, mental health in young people must be prioritised if we want to avoid further damage to our future working population. We want these individuals to be healthy and happy - it is only then our society can flourish. According to an article by Mary O’hara in ‘The Guardian’ from the 31st of July, the number of active GP referrals to mental health services in young people in the UK are three times higher in 2018 than in 2016. This could be a result of more young-people self reporting, which shows that change in attitudes towards mental health issues in society is happening. However, while demand for services are increasing, the ability for the NHS to intervene is falling. The BBC reports that a third of young Scottish people are waiting longer than 18 weeks to access mental health services. It is a significant failure since the governments policy states that 90% of children should have been seen within that time. However, as a response to these horrifying numbers, first Minister Nicola Sturgeon formally announced an increased capital investment in mental health support for young people this September.

Personally, I am glad to see that Scotland aims to give the best efforts in increasing help with mental health. The increased funding to health services for young people is crucial. But can we not go further? Is it sustainable to treat the symptoms of a wider problem rather than addressing the issues of school stress, difficult home situations, pressure to conform to beauty ideals and social media influences on mental health? That is something I would like you to think about today, and every other day. Because every day should be a world mental health day. Even though we’re talking more about mental health now than before - fear of stigma still exists and we need to keep taking about it, and keep pressuring the government to make these important changes and interventions.

What follows are links to charitable organisations that provide information and support regarding mental health. These organisations also play a crucial role in impacting governmental decisions. If you're feeling down, don't hesitate to make use of their helplines, or speak to someone you trust, or your GP.

See Me (Scotlands program to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination)

Breathing Space (Information and helpline)

Respectme (Scotlands anti-bullying service)

Child line (Counseling service for children and young people)

Samaritans - Scotland (Judgement-free, phone support)

Information retrieved from:

The Guardian “‘Young peoples health is a worsening crisis’ Action is needed.”, 31 July, 2018, by Mary O’Hara

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