Summary of report content
Since 2014, Healthwatch Essex has gathered the health and social care lived experience of young people in Essex through the YEAH! and SWEET! projects. The SWEET! (Services We Experience in Essex Today) project has focussed on accessing the voices of seldom heard groups who are not always engaged through traditional consultation platforms.
This study took place over six months, in which 45 inpatients, aged between 15-17 years, shared their lived experience within group discussions or one to-one conversations as well 11 staff members at the Poplar Adolescent Unit.
It was found that young people would experience delays in accessing mental health support unless they had a basic understanding of their symptoms, the adult they spoke to understood their symptoms, a parent/teacher booked their appointment, and that the health professional agreed they needed further support. They also found that young people valued the importance of timely treatment and that These participants felt that a lack of awareness, and negative stigma, could cause a delay in seeking support and therefore also contribute to a deterioration in their mental health. There was a sense that the care they received, and the professional it was delivered by, was always changing without any satisfactory explanation. Furthermore, the young people often felt they played a passive role in their treatment, whereby, the care they received was something that was done to them, rather than done with them. It was common for many patients to experience mental illness as a result of social stressors.
However, a number of recommendations were made in the report. These included the need for high quality engagement especially when engaging seldom heard groups. Healthwatch Essex recommends that early intervention and prevention techniques be introduced, particularly increasing mental health literacy of those involved in the lives of children. While there is no immediate solution to address staff turnover, the importance of consistent professionals in the young people’s lives must be emphasised, and commissioners, providers and frontline staff encouraged to work together to develop solutions. Shared decision making in terms of treatment and support for young people is to be encouraged. A holistic approach should be taken to support young people's mental health as physical and social factors can have a significant impact. The more we can move toward a system wide approach, wherein single professionals can coordinate and manage multiple factors of a young person’s case, the better chance we have of addressing the root cause of some mental illness, as well as accelerating recovery and, in turn, discharge from the hospital setting.