The report presents young people’s experiences and perspectives of current mental health support in Gloucestershire. It provides valuable insights into the challenges they face and offers recommendations to extend and improve the type of support that young people find helpful.
Healthwatch Gloucestershire first highlighted the need for better mental health care and support for young people in its 2022 Young Listeners report. Building on that work, this more recent project focused on the non-clinical, social aspects of mental health support.
During January to February 2023, Healthwatch Gloucestershire gathered feedback from over 200 people, through an online survey, one-to-one interviews, and focus group discussions. The key findings from this feedback included:
- A high proportion of young people experience poor mental health, and COVID-19 continues to have an impact.
- Stress and anxiety levels are high across all age groups of children and young people.
- Young people face pressure from various sources, including school, exams, social media, climate change, and friendship groups.
- Young people lack awareness of easily accessible informal support options.
- Youth clubs and social opportunities outside of school and college provide significant benefits for young people.
In light of these findings, Healthwatch Gloucestershire is recommending the following actions to improve social support and early intervention for young people’s mental health in Gloucestershire:
- Establish and promote a local directory of services that’s accessible and inclusive to all young people in Gloucestershire.
- Provide a comprehensive range of services that support young people throughout their mental health journey, including more social support groups, activities, and opportunities for early intervention.
- Increase the availability of free community-based support options, such as sports and social activities, for young people to engage with and benefit from.
- Ensure easy access to support via phone, apps, and online platforms to help young people manage anxiety and prevent the need for more formal clinical support.
Lucy White, Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager, commented on the report, saying: “By learning from young people’s experiences and feedback, health and social care providers will be better able to address their mental health needs. We are committed to ensuring that the recommendations from this report translate into meaningful actions to improve mental health support for young people.”
In response to the report, Gloucestershire County Council highlighted that it has invested in TIC+Chat, a new helpline providing support to young people aged 9-25 experiencing anxiety or low mood. Additionally, the council’s Build Back Better Youth grant scheme aims to invest in community-based social and recreational activities for young people.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne MBE, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, expressed gratitude to Healthwatch Gloucestershire and the young people who shared their experiences, stating: “We must listen directly to young people about what works for them so that we can invest in initiatives that will make a real difference to the wellbeing of the next generation.”
The report also received a positive response from the Children’s Mental Health Commissioner at NHS Gloucestershire, who emphasised the importance of listening to young people to ensure services meet their needs. The commissioner highlighted the development of ‘On Your Mind Glos’, a new tool co-developed with young people, which features a mental health support finder and a directory of services, including self-referral options and self-help resources.