October 10th.  2018 – World Mental Health Day

The headlines today on BBC radio 4 announced the government was appointing a suicide prevention minister for England ahead of a global summit it was hosting on mental health. The announcement was shortly followed by an interview with two young people who had been experiencing mental health problems and had been made to wait between one and two years before being able to access appropriate professional support to help them deal with anxiety, panic attacks and ongoing suicidal feelings. One of the youngsters had been lucky enough to have a family who were able to purchase private mental health support for him. Not all young people are so lucky.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds in Britain and it is the biggest killer of men aged 20-49 – accounting for even more deaths than road traffic accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. Evidence suggests that those professionals providing the support are so stretched due to budget cuts and increasing demand, that they too are experiencing higher levels of mental ill health. In the meantime, charities such as our own are witnessing a rise in referrals for young people with severe mental health problems with nowhere else to turn.

Appointing a minister for suicide prevention, whist drastically reducing access to mental health provision and making severe cuts to other services, feels a little like appointing a chief pilot to fly a plane without wings; low on fuel, already full to capacity and with a deteriorating safety record.

‘Investment by governments and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based programmes for the mental health of young people is essential. This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students. This is the focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day.’ (World Mental Health Day 2018).

Steve Slack, October 10th 2018.