Young citizens back mental health awareness campaign
A group of youngsters have put mental health services under the spotlight as part of a nationwide scheme.
The 16-year-olds, who attend different schools but are all based in the District, are taking part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme and wanted to highlight problems around treatment for mental health, often based on personal experience.
As part of the programme, they have set up a “social action project” including launching a petition and are supporting the Rethink Mental Illness charity.
The seven-strong team are looking to engage with as many service providers as possible as well as raising awareness amongst local residents.
They have also met with representatives from West Oxfordshire District Council including Cllr Michele Mead, Cabinet Member for Community and Public Health, along with Diane Statham, participation lead for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
And they set up a stall in Witney where they chatted to shoppers and urged them to sign their petition.
Becky Evans, who attends Bartholomew School in Eynsham, said: “Most people of our age are aware of mental health issues whether they are suffering themselves or have seen their effects on friends and family.
“We have set out some areas we would like to change when it comes to treatment and we want to encourage people to speak up about it – it’s not something we should be scared about.”
Key issues the group have identified include:
- Differing waiting times – if referred by a GP or the police, an individual will access help faster than through school
- The need for an introductory meeting with mental health services whilst on the waiting list
- Preparing for the transition to an adult mental health service beyond the age of 18
- A lack of education surrounding mental health issues in schools
- Little support for young people leaving home
Cllr Mead added: “These amazing young people are very open and honest about mental health in under-18s. They speak from experience and are highlighting a growing problem in our society with services overstretched.
“It is fantastic to see them being so proactive and I know their efforts will be far more effective than those of a group of adults sitting in a room.
“We look forward to continuing to engage with them, helping ensure their positive voices are heard.”
West Oxfordshire District Council is committed to helping deliver mental health services for young people and last March signed up to the Mental Health Concordat. It is funding MIND’s new Children and Young People’s service to run a project in the District.
The National Citizen Service is a voluntary personal and social development programme for 15–17 year olds in England and Northern Ireland, funded largely by money from the UK Government.