It’s finally happening! A growing awareness of how young people are suffering from increasingly poor mental health is becoming more visible throughout the UK. Minds, attitudes and support are improving, but not fast enough!
Effective treatments have been discovered and scientifically validated, yet tragically there is not enough access to these treatments for those who are suffering.
A report by the Educational Policy Institute, published in Sept 2017, shows that over a quarter of young people (26.3 per cent) referred to specialist mental health services are not accepted for treatment in the UK. Little progress has been made in reducing the high proportion of young people who are not accepted into specialist services despite having been referred by a concerned GP or teacher.
There is also a wide variation between providers. Some providers do not accept over half of their referrals, while for others, that figure is less than 5 per cent. Dorset Healthcare was the fourth worst area provider for mental healthcare in 2016-17 by rejecting over 40% of referrals made.
Where support IS accessed it is superb and often life changing. I was one of the lucky ones. It shouldn’t rely on luck, it should be available to all who need it when they need it.
It is time to think about the ‘P’ word. Prevention. Prevention is better than cure and the preventative strategies for failing mental health work. They really do! All of us can learn how to achieve fantastic mental health and, most importantly, help those we love to achieve it too.
Are you reading this and thinking ‘this all sounds well and good but it can’t be that easy?’ Maybe you are someone who is familiar with thinking:
‘I still can’t talk to my friends about how I worry before going out to a party’,
or ‘there is no way I can talk to my boss about how I feel so mentally low at the moment’.
This stigma around mental health seems to be unyielding. Even if you are courageous enough to explain how you are suffering to people, there is no guarantee that you won’t lose friends, colleagues and even employment due to fundamental misunderstandings and fear about mental health issues. I speak from personal experience, I lost all of those several times, plus my family home, due to widespread ignorance, discrimination and often fear from those whose duty is to protect and support us.
HOWEVER! I do believe the changes we need are beginning to happen, thanks to high profile celebrities sharing their own mental health struggles and the incredible relentless campaigning by charities such as Mind and The Blurt Foundation.
Still not convinced? Look at the shift in our societies attitude to smoking over the past 30 years. Scientific proof, combined with widespread publicity campaigns, government funding, local support groups and industry compliance has dramatically reduced the number of smokers and cases of lung cancer existing now in the UK. We can achieve a similar tidal turn of attitudes towards being open about suffering from poor mental health and, more importantly, accept the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness and positive psychology.
Which would you find more comfortable replying when answering the question ‘How are you feeling at the moment?’
A: ‘Oh I feel so unfit, I really need to get to the gym and go for a run’
B: ‘My depression is back and I’m struggling’.
My guess is nearly everyone would feel far more comfortable saying answer A, rather than Answer B. Yet working on good mental health deserves to be perceived as just as acceptable as trying to achieve a healthy physical body (and of course we know that having mental well-being significantly improves physical health too!).
So here is the reasoning for establishing ‘The Flourish and Thrive Coaching Café’.
I have been very fortunate to join two stunning support groups for entrepreneurs led by kick-ass professionals who provide motivation, learning and inspiration for those of us who become members. I’ve made friends, found fantastic experts, discovered brand new networks and, most importantly, a daily source of support and encouragement for what I do as a business. I love it, I love them and there is no way I ever want to lose them. As their businesses grow so does my joy in being a small part of helping them to thrive. We share successes, triumphs, worries, problems, new ideas, hints, tips and terrible jokes. We hold each other to account when asked (setting out our weekly intentions every Monday) and celebrate our wins, however epic or small. Our fortnightly live Q and A sessions are a welcome opportunity to see each other online, to listen to our group leader share advice and work her magic (awesome doesn’t even come near to explaining how phenomenal she is!), plus share how we are all doing.
This is coaching in an online age. If it works so well for business entrepreneurs, why not apply it to a difference audience and need? This is how I came to develop the idea of ‘The Flourish and Thrive Coaching Café ‘. This is an innovative online model designed to benefit the groups of people who I am most passionately supportive and in awe of – teenagers and tweenagers (Oh no no no NO! I refuse to use that word ever again to describe people in their 20’s, it is truly inexcusable! I’m using ‘young adults’ instead from now on. Apologies to those of you who are still groaning with cringiness) .
While exploring the idea of who this online community would be for I came across the new scientific definition of ‘adolescence’ . Adolescence now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24, although it used to be thought to end at 19. This is partly due to young people continuing their education for longer, as well as delayed marriage and parenthood, which has pushed back popular perceptions of when adulthood begins. Professor Susan Sawyer states: Arguably, the transition period from childhood to adulthood now occupies a greater portion of the life course than ever before at a time when unprecedented social forces, including marketing and digital media, are affecting health and wellbeing across these years.
Professor Russell Viner, president-elect of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health, said: “In the UK, the average age for leaving home is now around 25 years for both men and women.”
He supports extending the definition to cover adolescence up until the age of 24 and says a number of UK services already take this into account. For example UK government safeguarding legislation supports this by recently extending its remit to young people up to and including the age of 25 years.
Therefore I have decided to use the term ‘Young Adults’ to describe people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. We all know of individuals who, at 15 years old, possess maturity, capability and wisdom far beyond the experience of a newly fledged ‘adult’ yet at the same time shake our heads in near disbelief at the immaturity of some 23 year olds (I am resisting the urge to name the two people who spring to mind as I write this as that would be reprehensibly unfair to them, whilst also furthering unhelpful gender stereotypes. But yes, the 15 year old is female!).
Members of my very first tutor group are now approaching 30 years old and I suspect that it was I, as their teacher, who grew up the most during the five years we spent together. I think I can say with confidence that they have all ‘got it’ now, ie how to ‘do adulting’. However I know many people in their mid twenties who are still trapped using the same negative mindsets they had at 15 years old. They are not happy, they are confused and feel somewhat wronged by the ‘system’ which promised that hard work would bring them home ownership, job security, lovely holidays and happiness.
I am not leaving them to grow more mentally weary and in danger of becoming the next set of government statistics about burnt out Millennials.
So, let’s do this! Let’s build a life changing online community which improves mental health and develops happiness and success for all (well, for those aged between 14 and 29 years. Plus their parents. And friends and family. Er… that is almost everyone of all ages. I’m supposed to be focusing on a niche age group. Oh well, the more the merrier ….)
I want Flourish and Thrive to be the greatest show of positivity, encouragement and kindness supported by mental health activities confirmed by science to improve wellbeing and enjoyment of life. It’s being built now and I would love you to be part of it.
 Access and waiting times in children and young peoples mental health services, by Emily Frith, Sept 2017 Educational Policy Institute.