Young people search for solutions following mental health summit

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Photo of Peterborough from above

With Children's Mental Health Week next week February 1-7, Peterborough Citizens Mental Health Action Team spoke to commissioning manager for children and young people’s mental health at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Kathryn Goose, and Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, in the hour-long meeting.

They are aiming to find out more about why Cambridge and Peterborough have one of the highest waits for treatment for mental health for young people, and what could be done to help young people during and after the Covid crisis.

A number of young people read out results from surveys they had conducted and  correspondence they had received, finding that 28% had 'no idea where to go' if they were suffering from mental health issues, and a similar percentage said they would 'maybe' know where to go. 

Of those who did know where to go, there was a lack of confidence in services, with 55% saying the quality of services was below a good standard. 

There was also concern about waiting times, and only 22.5% said they would be confident in supporting their friends if they were suffering.

One young person said: "I believe if young people were taught how to help others at school who are in need.

"I've struggled with supporting friends in the past who had problems, with no guidance in this area when a person came out of their comfort zone, and that made it worse for them."

One 14-year old pupil said she found the referral process initially reassuring as she was promised a session alone, but was then dismayed when her parents were allowed in as well "denying her the opportunity to say what she wanted in confidence." No other session was ever booked.

The summit also highlighted many of the negative reviews for CAMHS online, as well as a need for a Covid crisis response, after a survey of more than 300 young Peterborough people found that the percentage who described their mental health as poor pre-Covid increased from 15% to 43.7% now.

Loneliness, interrupted learning and the circumstances around exams were listed as the three biggest reasons. One person with anxiety said she was feeling "the lowest she's ever felt".

One young person asked Ms Goose if there was a chance that the young people could work with CAMHS in the future, and she said: "It would be really beneficial.

"Five years ago we set up the 'Keep Your Head' website with Cambridgeshire Regional College, but we have identified over time that it is used mainly by professionals.

"We want to make it more user friendly for young people, and today is a prime opportunity for us to us to use your voices to see how it can be better presented and promoted for young people and families." 

She reiterated that the challenge of passing from young people's services to adults services for those who might need them, in the Covid environment.

She added that there was now a move toward allocating resources towards populations that need it most, rather than more generally.

Five students put themselves forward following the meeting, as part of a working group, to also look at the next stages.

Mr Bristow added: "The thing I took from the presentation it really does gear towards issues of accessibility, and it needs to speak to all communities.

"Another issue is funding, and we know Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are not funded-adequately -  that is something for me to lobby on. The national funding formula just doesn't suit Peterborough, because there are a lot of hidden populations. 

"On Covid, I heard on the radio one person talking about schools and that we as a population were concentrating far too much on young people. 

"I couldn't believe his attitude. Many young people feel their futures are being taken away from them, and that is going to have a huge impact on mental health and perhaps the debate hasn't focused enough on that."

The two resolutions were:

1) To work with a group of students to improve the access to mental health services; the working group will be meeting CCG Feb/march.

2) To work with MP Paul Bristow to help lobby funding through a list of research questions, highlighting the issues of Mental Health in Peterborough and its lack of funding, a group of dedicated students will be supporting Paul Bristow