16th October 2018

Eight pioneers making a difference to young people’s mental health

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World Mental Health Day (October 10) has kicked off, aiming to raise support and awareness of mental health issues.

This year, The World Federation for Mental Health is focusing on the theme of young people and mental health in a changing world. And it’s little wonder.

From dealing with violence in the home or school, wars and violations to human rights to spending too much time on the internet and being exposed to aggression, young people across the globe are feeling their mental health is challenged.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted that half of all mental illness begins by the time children are 14-years-old but alarmingly most cases are not detected which means there are many young people untreated.

According to statistics, mental health conditions affect about 1 in 10 children and young people and 75 per cent of mental health problems in adult life (not including dementia) start before age eighteen. If this isn’t alarming enough, three children in every classroom are suffering with their mental health.

UK youths often live life in the fast lane; changing schools, making new friends, starting relationships, planning future careers, learning to drive, moving to university, learning to cope in new environments, to list but a few.

While these changes to their young lives can be fun or exciting, it can also be very daunting which in turn causes stress or depression. Then add the eating disorders, social media pressure and gaming addiction into the mix and you can imagine the pressure building up.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has requested official guidelines for social media use to be drawn up. He said he was ‘very worried’ as a father by the increasing evidence of its damage on young people’s health and has called upon the UK’s chief medial officer, Dame Sally Davies, to look at preparing official guidance on safe time limits, in a similar way to safe alcohol limits.

Acre has looked at supportive people and organisations, in no particular order, who help make an impact in promoting good mental health in young people. Feast your eyes and wear your green ribbon with pride today to show your support for better mental health and to highlight the needs of young people.


Lauren Seager-Smith

Seager-Smith is chief executive officer at Kidscape, a charity that aims for all children to grow up in a world free from bullying and harm, with supportive adults who can help them to reach their full potential.

The charity provides children, families, carers and professionals with advice, training and practical tools to prevent bullying and protect young lives. Seager-Smith has a deep personal commitment to change children’s lives for the better and has dedicated her professional life to children and young people.

She told Acre: “World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for all of us to talk openly about mental health without fear or shame, to share our stories and to call for parity of care. The focus on young people this year should act as a catalyst to empower families, schools and communities to take action so our babies, children, toddlers and teens live mentally healthy lives; seeing no divide between body, mind and spirit.

“There are many many things that impact on our mental health. For children and teens the love, care and conditions in which they are raised have a fundamental impact on how they feel and who they grow up to be.

“As an anti-bullying campaigner and leader of the charity Kidscape I have seen first-hand the impact on young lives of growing up with bullying, shame and derision. It is well researched that bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation. But the good news is that we can take action now – whether we are a parent or carer, educator, community member, business leader or friend.

“Children need to sleep; they need movement and fresh air, to eat well, to learn and play in equal measure, to feel part of a safe, nurturing community that allows them to be themselves and to love and be loved. And if a child is poorly; if families are struggling to cope, they need timely and appropriate medical care. We all have a role to play in creating this world. What can you do today to make a child’s load easier to bear and the future brighter?”


Danny Bowman

Bowman is director of mental health for the think tank Parliament Street. A leading mental health campaigner, he has carried out research which suggests thousands of children and adolescents are on waiting lists for NHS psychological therapies.

It was highlighted that more than 6,000 children and adolescents were waiting for treatment as of June this year with an average of 326 young people awaiting therapy.
Bowman has appeared on television, radio and in magazines around the world, including Good Morning Britain and Attitude Magazine in the UK and ABC News and Time Magazine in the USA.

He told Acre: ‘World Mental Health Day is an extremely effective way of bringing us all together to discuss the important topic of mental health.
“The focus this year on young people I believe is much needed and vital to addressing the current situation in a changing world. It is crucial we start addressing the issues affecting young people’s mental health in a changing world and start to find solutions.

“I fundamentally believe, if we come together globally, we can address the pressing issues around young people’s mental health and gather solutions that will help in the prevention of mental illness.”


Caroline Hounsell

Hounsell is director of communities for MHFA England (Mental Health First Aid).

A qualified psychotherapist, she told Acre: “Young people of today face a host of new pressures in the changing world. We know that 50 per cent of mental health issues are established by age 14, and 75 per cent by 24, but only a quarter of those get access to the treatment and care that they need – it’s vital we address this problem. At MHFA England we believe we have a responsibility to give our young people the best possible chance of a happy, healthy and resilient adult life.

“This World Mental Health Day, we launched the #HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit: a set of free resources for young people, and those who work with them, to help address their wellbeing. It includes advice on how to identify symptoms of mental ill health, how to start a conversation with a young person about their mental health, and some self-care tips for young people if they are struggling. By focusing on young people now, we can start to build a generation that are used to talking openly about their mental health and helping each other through the stresses that life throws at them.”


Emily Gearing

Gearing believes that self-awareness, understanding and acceptance are crucial factors in preventing mental illness in the future.

As a life coach and wellbeing educator at Purposeful Moments, Gearing works with parents and children helping them to manage emotions, build resilience and develop empathy through self-awareness techniques.

She told Acre: “Teaching children how to recognise emotions and manage their wellbeing is essential for preventing mental illness. Once children have an awareness, understanding and acceptance of themselves and others, they’re able to navigate life with confidence. This level of awareness encourages a strong sense of identity which is significant for mental wellbeing.

“World Mental Health Day gives us the opportunity to focus on the importance of mental wellbeing and celebrate the work that has been done to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Furthermore it provides a platform for children and young people to discuss their mental health without judgment or criticism from others”.



Tom Madders

Madders is the director of communications and campaigns at YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health.

While there is growing awareness about mental health, research by YoungMinds suggests that stigma remains a significant factor in preventing young people from getting the help they need. So for World Mental Health Day the charity is hosting its third #HelloYellow day which aims to spread the word that, whatever you’re going through, you can talk to someone if you’re struggling to cope. The day encourages schools and companies to wear yellow and raise awareness and funds to support YoungMinds’ work, campaigning for improvements to mental health services.

Madders told Acre: “Young people growing up now face huge pressures, from school stress to feeling the need to live the ‘perfect’ life, which is made more intense by the rise of social media.

“But we know that many young people find it incredibly difficult to open up about what they’re going through, and feel isolated or misunderstood. We hope that #HelloYellow will spread the message that it’s okay to talk about how you’re feeling. Reaching out to someone you trust – a friend, a family member, a teacher, a doctor or a helpline – is an important first step to getting help.

“It’s also incredibly important that we see improvements in the mental health support available to young people and parents when they do reach out. The money raised by #HelloYellow will help us campaign for better services and support more parents through our award-winning parents’ helpline.”


Marjorie Wallace

Wallace is the chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, which she founded in 1986.

A respected voice on mental health, disability and charitable issues for many years, Wallace is widely regarded as having been one of the strongest influences on government policy on community care.

Speaking about the recent report by the Education Policy Institute that found large increases in the number of referrals to children’s specialist mental health services, she said: “It is shocking that across the country at least 55,000 children who are so unwell they need to be referred to specialist services are still not receiving the treatment they urgently need.

“It is even more worrying that the number of referrals each year is rising so quickly. Despite government efforts to increase the number of children in treatment, services are still buckling under the pressure.

“Children and teenagers who need treatment but are denied it risk long-term mental illness: two-thirds of all mental health problems start before adulthood. Let alone the long-term impact on families, communities, and the NHS. It is a scandalous betrayal of a generation of children and young people.”



The Children’s Society

The national charity that helps protect the most vulnerable of children carried out research back in August which showed nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 said they had self-harmed in just a year.

One in six of more than 11,000 children surveyed reported self-harming at the same age, including nearly one in 10 boys.

The alarming figures lead on from analysis included in the charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, which studied the state of children’s well-being in the UK and the reasons behind the unhappiness which increases the self-harming risk.

Based on these figures, The Children’s Society estimates that nearly 110,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the same 12-month period, including 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.

As part of its groundbreaking research into the well-being of children, the charity has worked with the New Economics Foundation (NEF) to find out what children can do to support their own well-being and how they can be helped by others. The guide covers taking time to talk – and listen – to our children, showing them warmth, keeping them active and learning, letting them see friends and explore their local environment.




Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) offers NHS-provided services for children struggling in the UK with their emotional or behavioural well-being, generally until they reach school-leaving age.

CAMHS can support children and young people suffering from self-harm, depression, bipolar, anxiety, problems with food, abuse, violence or anger and schizophrenia, to list but a few. Parents, teachers or GPs can refer the young person, however, if they are old enough, they can refer themselves.

There are many local NHS CAMHS services around the UK, with teams comprising nurses, therapists, psychologists, support workers and social workers, as well as other professionals.

Families get support as CAMHS works with the whole family to help with a young person’s health.

Most CAMHS have local websites to get more information which you can access via the NHS website www.nhs.uk