Thousands of young adults who are suffering from mental illnesses, find the help they are receiving suddenly stops at a significant birthday.
Child services that offer care and support for those needing extra help often end the moment the child reaches between the ages of 16 and 21 years old.
Those that have reached this age are often left to their own devices despite still requiring ongoing support and care for their mental well being. Those who do end up in adult care, however, often feel as though they are neglected and poorly looked after.
Numbers show as many as 75% of young people in the UK and just over 30% across Europe are considered to require further counselling and support for their mental health.
This can lead to many young individuals lacking in the confidence to move on with their lives by getting a job, applying to college or university or finding and maintaining relationships.
The experiences of a thousand young people leaving the care of child and adolescent mental health services (CAHM) and moving to adult mental health services (AHM) are being followed in several European countries which includes the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy.
The features of these stories are surprisingly similar:
- Young people are being discharged at 18 and not given other options
- They are having to persuade adult services that they need further support
- They are having decisions being made about them, without them knowing
- They are repeatedly being told that they are not considered ‘ill enough’ for further care or that they are now fine
The most common mental health problems that young people face are anxiety and depression, with girls who are 14 and above more likely to face these issues than boys.
Not being able to find help quickly enough has had tragic consequences. Nearly one in five deaths among 15 to 19 year olds are caused by self-inflicted wounds.
If these issues are left untreated the long-term risks for these young people can include: poor grades at school, higher risk of addictive behaviours, increase of violent tendencies and a higher risk of unemployment.
This can create stressful situations amongst the child’s parents who are left wondering what they can do to help while their child waits for professional care as the signs can be challenging to spot.
Robert Scullion, a Student Engagement Officer at City of Glasgow College believes that services should be improved and parents are important in getting help for their children.
He said: “People also need attention; young people often think they are in the world on their own and they may perceive that they have to have all the answers for everything. So just reassuring and say that it is okay not to know and it is okay to be upset. It is okay to feel confused, it is all normal.”
Young adults face different levels of independency and career paths and are often caught between two fairly different services, one that considers them as still part of a family group and one that considers them as adults and can be given advice without family members being present, unless given permission.
It has also been noted that young people often lack the understanding of adult services, feel insecure about moving from an area where they are familiar with and dread being in an unfamiliar system with unfamiliar people.
Transitions that do occur are often abrupt and poorly planned out and this can result in further confusion and this has been linked to a higher risk of disengagement from services and discontinuity of care.
There have been some positive steps forward to try and resolve the issue in many countries such as Germany which has created a “task-force” to help improve the care of young people between services.
In the UK, some universities have taken steps to help improve mental health in students after there was a concern about the high number of suicides at universities across the UK.
It is important to find out what works – and does not work- amongst young adults when it comes to their mental state which can help improve care in the future.
Scullion also added: “People nowadays live in a society where it is quite predominant for people to talk now about how we feel. Most people often think they are alone and it is only them that the problem is occurring for. They don’t realise there is a majority of folk that think the same, so once they start to realise that, it takes a lot of pressure off of them and allows them to see their lives differently.”
As it is estimated that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, it is an important area to be focusing on.
It is advised that parents of children who are waiting to seek professional help observe their children and note down any changes as they are often the ones that help start the process of getting the help their child needs.
Help ends abruptly at milestone birthday for young people