Even though society is more open about mental health, support is still difficult to obtain. There might be more recognition of young people with mental health problems that are developing, but it’s still considerably hard for young people to get the help that they require.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the resources are simply not there for young people who need to be supported for their mental health. There really isn’t enough help for children and young people with mental health complexities, and those young people who have succeeded in accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services found it especially difficult to get an initial referral, and there’s a pretty long wait between referral and their assessment, and the assessment and treatment.
Countless adolescents first visit their GP for advice and guidance and are frequently told that they’re depressed and their GP will give them a prescription, so they pop a tablet or two and when that doesn’t work, they go back to their GP who increases the dosage without considering making a referral to Mental Health.
There’s a number of these kids that are self-harmers, whether it’s cutting, drinking or using drugs to escape from the torture that they’re feeling, and many of these kids don’t make it and end up taking their own life, but then they simply become a statistic and it’s all brushed under the carpet, AND THIS ISN’T OKAY!
This simply reflects on what we hear every day from young people and parents, and despite there being vast progress made, there’s still an unacceptable barrier to young people getting help.
Every day there are calls to “Parents Helpline” from parents whose children are not getting help at school, and who have been waiting months for an assessment, or who are told they don’t meet the threshold for treatment. What do these parents have to do, do they have to wait until something really serious happens or their child takes their own life because they didn’t meet some ridiculous criteria?
We hear about young people that have started to self-harm or have become suicidal while waiting for support, and sometimes even then, they don’t always get the help or fit specific criteria, yet evidence confirms that getting the proper help quickly can prevent problems from intensifying, and it’s simply not good enough that around half of those young people who reach out for help are merely turned away.
Getting the nation to talk about mental health is a vital component of the fight, but it further needs to be met by a mental health system that’s equipped to manage the current crisis, and we are at breaking point as far as mental health goes.
It’s brilliant that things are changing and attitudes around mental health make it more acceptable to talk because these youngsters find it really challenging, but we further need the support to back up that social reform.
This involves extra funding for all mental health services, and a new focus on mental health education in schools, with designated specialist support for young people to talk to.
If you’re a parent of a teenager, or you can simply recall your own adolescence, you know this can be an emotionally difficult time under the best of circumstances, but for millions who are parents of pre-teens and teens, adolescent years can bring difficulties that go beyond the normal dread of growing up.
Around 20 per cent of kids aged between 13 to 18 has a behavioural disorder. A category that includes mental illness, substance use, and eating disorders and many more.
In fact, half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders start by the age of 14. Left untreated, mental illness can lead to poor school performance, substance misuse, and precarious sexual conduct, as well as tension within the family of the sufferer.
It can further have serious long-term consequences if the teenager drops out of school or ends up in the juvenile justice system, but as is the case with adults, not all teenagers who need help with their mental health get it, even if their situation is serious.
And with adolescents aged between 13 to 18, half of those with mental disorders that had caused them severe distress or impairment had never received treatment for their symptoms, such as mood disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, behavioural disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders.
So, why do so few adolescents receive the mental health care that they need? Solely because there are not enough qualified children’s mental health professionals to handle the number of children and adolescents with mental illness.
The average waiting time for an appointment for a child or adolescent psychiatric care is close to two months, more than three times the standard waiting time of two weeks for children’s hospital services, and this widespread lack of access has far-reaching consequences.
Teens and families suffer longer, with adverse behaviour patterns continuing unchecked, and if mental illness is involved, the disease progresses, and with many being turned away because they’re not ill enough, others suffer long waiting times and it could be years before that changes.
The provisions are greatly below required levels and numerous people who do get help face long waits for treatment, and this can be disastrous for people’s life prospects, their physical well-being, education and work chances.
We need the right staff with the proper skills in the correct places because effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more swiftly, as well as ease the pressure on health services.
As a mother of a child who suffered from mental health and depression I was fortunate enough not to be clueless where my child was concerned and noticed several different things going on and got the ball rolling, but for many teenagers with depression or any mental illness it’s almost too late because many of them never get diagnosed.
Lack of screening for depression is one part of the problem in children’s mental health, and there should be screening and detection for depression or any kind of mental illness, and parents may also not recognise the manifestations of a mental health problem or may not be aware of how severe the problem is, due to the lack of their understanding or perception of depression in children.
However, some parents know there’s a problem and ignore the blatant symptoms of depression in their children, or merely don’t want to help and are reluctant to seek help for their child’s depression, so would this be considered child abuse for a parent not to get medical help for their depressed teen?
Well, neglect is a continuous failure to meet a child’s basic requirements and is the most prevalent form of child abuse. If you left your child starving and filthy, without sufficient clothes, shelter, supervision and medical health care, that establishes abuse.
If a child is in danger or is not shielded from physical or emotional harm, that’s abuse, and this further involves not getting the love, care and attention they need from their parents.
A child who’s neglected will frequently suffer from other abuse as well, and neglect is dangerous and can cause severe, long-term harm, even death.
Neglect happens when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet the child’s needs, but sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support needed, or just because they don’t have the skills they don’t want to bother because it’s easier to brush it under the carpet, this is neglect!
Child abuse is an act by another person, adult or child that creates significant harm to a child. It could be physical, sexual or emotional, but it can just as often be about the lack of love, care and attention, but whatever form it takes, it can just be as crushing to a child as physical abuse.
An abused child will usually encounter more than one kind of abuse, as well as other challenges in their lives, and it frequently occurs over a duration of time, rather than being a one-off event.
Teens experience depression for much longer than their parents are aware, but there are several reasons for this, including the stigma of mental illness, and teens not being forthcoming because they blame themselves for feeling depressed and don’t want to upset anybody.
In fact, feeling like things are your fault is one of the manifestations of depression, and we’re lucky if a teenager tells their parents they’re feeling depressed or a parent recognises that flag signalling and takes their child for evaluation because the depression is likely far more severe than the parent might recognise.
And most teenagers who attempt suicide have never been assessed or treated for depression before, but after a child attempts suicide and a parent begins to understand and learn about depression, most parents are prepared to do anything to support their child, but in some cases, this doesn’t happen.
This is especially harmful to teenagers who ask for treatment and the message they get is that their suffering is not serious enough to treat, and depression and its worst danger, suicide, are severe and frequent problems in children and teenagers. Suicide is the second leading cause of death, resulting in more deaths than from cancer or any other illness or disease.
In addition to deaths by suicide, depression can cause progressively exacerbated brain changes, yet, even after a qualified mental health professional diagnoses a child with depression, some parents refuse treatment, and consequently mental health can be ignored with a parent who willfully refuses to provide treatment for their child for depression which could be seen as a form of child abuse.
The term medical neglect refers to a child being harmed due to a lack of medical care, but this not only applies to parents but also to the inadequate mental health treatment that they get or don’t get from service providers in the medical profession.
But medical neglect further happens when parents understand the medical advice given, along with the favoured treatment that would have important benefits for the child’s well-being, and the parent or caregiver still denies or ignores treatment or access to care, another way for neglect to occur is to disregard visible manifestations of the illness.
Nevertheless, GP’s and doctors are likewise just as negligent when they don’t or won’t do anything about the child or teenager that has asked for help and just brushes it under the carpet, and while there’s a criterion which is normally applied to chronic physical illnesses like HIV or asthma, it seems to be rarely applied to mental illnesses.
It appears that if a child or teenager has an illness such as diabetes or asthma, a parent would take their child to the GP for treatment, but it’s frequently found that if it’s a teenager with depression or has attempted multiple suicides the parent is less inclined to agree to any help for their child.
Depression is difficult to diagnose because it is not always obvious, and parents may not believe in an illness they don’t see, and families who may not want to engage in psychotherapy or may object to their child taking pills, what are the alternatives for ensuring these children get proper care?
Well, I guess when parents and physicians view depression like any other illness, then more people will be helped, and GPs and doctors should be pulling together to stop neglect like this from happening by talking to parents about depression and treatment, and implementing education and discussing their concerns.
Parents need to be taught that some illnesses still exist and cause pain even if they can’t always see it, and parents should also know doctors aren’t blaming them for their child’s illness, but they’re responsible for getting their child appropriate treatment, and if they don’t, that’s neglect!