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Healthwatch Somerset report: Improving access to young people’s mental health services

by | Oct 31, 2023 | Healthwatch Somerset, Local Healthwatch

In its latest report, Healthwatch Somerset calls on those responsible for young people’s mental health services to improve awareness, availability and access to mental health support for young people.

In its previous 2021 research, Healthwatch Somerset found that young people thought mental health services are not promoted in a way that is accessible or inclusive of young people.

Given the widely reported impact of Covid on children and young people’s mental health, Healthwatch Somerset wanted to investigate the current situation to find out if young people are aware of the services available to them and how effectively they think these services are promoted and delivered.

The report, which is informed by feedback from 85 young people and their parents/carers, highlights the challenges young people face as they try to understand and get support for their mental health.

The key findings include:

  • 80% of young people felt the need for emotional support in the past year.
  • 47% of those who needed support did not look or ask for help.
  • 11% were unaware of any of the Somerset services offering direct support (via talking to young people).
  • Young Somerset emerged as the most frequently contacted service.
  • Schools proved to be pivotal in providing information and signposting for young people and adults.

The report identifies key recommendations aimed at streamlining access to services, improving communication, and bolstering support networks for young people. These include:

  • Simplifying access to services, making it easier to find information, to self-refer, and to get ongoing support after treatment.
  • Enhancing communication and promotion of available support, clarifying which services are best suited to individual needs.
  • Establishing a system of support for those experiencing prolonged waits for assessments and treatments.
  • Collaborating with schools, youth groups, community organisations, and family services to facilitate effective communication and access to resources to promote good mental health and emotional wellbeing.
  • Involving young people in the development of new services and proposed changes to existing provision and communicating the value and impact of their involvement.

Announcing the report, Gill Keniston-Goble, Healthwatch Somerset Manager, commented: “Many young people clearly feel they need support with their mental health, but they are facing barriers in their journey to getting help, including around information and communication, and long waits for support. We are calling on the organisations involved in delivering and commissioning these services to work together to build an accessible, inclusive, and effective mental health support system for young people in Somerset.”

Nik Harwood, Chief Executive, Young Somerset, welcomed the report, commenting: “We really value the Healthwatch Somerset report into children and young people’s access to mental health and wellbeing provision in Somerset. There are a number of insights into both our provision and the wider Somerset system which will be invaluable in our continuous service improvement efforts. It is a useful tool for us to use with our own participation and inclusion work with Young Somerset service-users and stakeholders.”

Fiona Phur, Participation and Partnerships Business Manager, at Somerset Council said: “The Engagement and Participation team at Somerset Council have valued the opportunity to support young people’s voices to be heard in this comprehensive and useful report. We hope this will guide practitioners and commissioners in their decisions about the services and interventions that children, young people and their families tell us need to be available.”

Read the full report, which includes case studies and comments from young people: Reaching out: Looking at mental health support for young people in Somerset

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