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Supporting young people with their mental health: It’s Time to Talk

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Healthwatch Dorset, Local Healthwatch

Time to Talk Day (1 February) is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about mental health. Talking about mental health isn't always easy, and sometimes it's hard to say how you really feel. But a conversation has the power to change lives, and the more conversations we have, the better life is for everyone.

We’ve been talking to the Student Services team at Weymouth College about common mental health issues young people are struggling with and how the College supports them. We also heard about the challenges they face trying to help young people get the right care, at the right time, from the right service.

Common mental health issues they help young people with include emotional distress cause by friendship and family issues/conflict, anxiety (including crippling anxiety which leads to social and educational isolation), Tourette’s Syndrome (which is increasing in prevalence), eating disorders, and depression.

College staff highlighted the value of working together with other specialist services in Dorset. They also identified difficulties accessing mental health services as a significant barrier to young people getting vital support, including:

  • Long waits for referrals and consultations.
  • CAMHS criteria for accessing Tier 3 level of support can be hard to meet and unclear.
  • Students who have previously struggled to engage with CAMHS due to their mental health and anxiety, are often told they can no longer access the service.
  • Eating disorder referrals are not always taken seriously until crisis point, due to a lack of support and resources.
  • It’s hard to get a referral and diagnosis for Tourette’s due to a lack of understanding and support.
  • Students who are 17 are moved to different, adult services at age 18.

We asked College staff, what could be done to improve mental health care for young people in Dorset, and they suggested the following:

  • Clearer care pathways for young people with Tourette’s and eating disorders, and more responsive support and advice.
  • Close the gap in support for students aged 16-18 by establishing a direct working relationship with the Mental Health Schools’ Team, to ensure earlier intervention and lower-level mental health support.
  • An early help central hub, to advise and directly connect students to the right service or support.
  • A low-level support worker available for every child, to prevent situations deteriorating and reaching crisis.
  • An online directory of services and agencies for use by College staff.
  • CAMHS to ‘think outside the box’ to engage more effectively the children and young people they work with.

Find out more by reading our interviews with Weymouth College staff:

  • Sue Drafter, Head of Student Services and Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead
  • Kristy Reid, Safeguarding Officer
  • Nola Smith, NEET Re-engagement Manager, and part of Student Services and the Safeguarding Team

Some of the issues raised at Weymouth College were also highlighted in our October 2023 report, Your Mind, Your Say, which identified areas for improvement in young people’s mental health care, based on in-depth conversations with young people.

We will use this new insight to continue our ongoing conversation with NHS Dorset about how to improve mental health care for young people.

If you would like to talk to us and share your views and experiences about mental health support, please get in touch by:

Time to Talk Day is the nation’s biggest mental health conversation, and it’s organised by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Whether you talk to friends or family, to people in your community or workplace, make sure you take some time to come together to talk, listen and change lives.

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