A friend and reader, Tracey, suggested today’s blog topic.
The issue of the ‘inbetweeners’ of mental health seems to be a problem many people have experienced at one stage or another. It’s the transition stage between what the NHS class as childhood and adulthood. It is the point in which an existing or newly referred patient, over the age of 16, is moved on to adult services.
The UK’s leading charity in improving young people’s mental health services, YoungMinds, are currently campaigning to improve transition care from child and adolescent mental health services to adult services, preventing young people from getting ‘lost in the system’.
And there are many who are being left in the dark when it comes to receiving the support they need from mental health services.
Did you know that when young people reach the age of 16 or 17, they are no longer eligible for support from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service)?
But more worrying is that they are often much too young or do not meet the strict criteria to be referred to AMHS (Adult Mental Health Services) as they may be classed as ‘not ill enough’.
So where does that leave these ‘inbetweeners’?
It puts them in a position where, ultimately, they are not able to access any of the services that could help them on their way to recovery. This is a dangerous position to be in for any young person suffering from mental illness.
So why do these issues occur exactly? And what could be done to change them?
First of all, the criteria for support through AMHS is very different to that of CAMHS. AMHS point of entry for treatment is a lot more difficult to meet than CAMHS in regards to the severity of the individual’s mental health. For example, AMHS will often only intervene when a young person has reached a crisis point or are deemed as a danger to themselves or others while those under 16 will often be referred to CAMHS before their illness advances to such stages.
As mentioned in my previous blog, this is where early intervention is key and can not only save a young person’s life but would prevent a young person from having to access more advanced mental health services (such as inpatient facilities) at a later age. If these services and resources are offered to a young person as soon as issues surface, they are able to better equip themselves with the techniques or methods they need to prevent a relapse in their mental health in the future.
This current gap in young people’s mental health care is very worrying and an issue many may not be aware of unless they themselves have tried to gain access. Young people who are no longer able to access CAMHS are waiting long periods of time to reach the correct age for AMSH services, which can’t start until the individual reaches 18.
This huge gap and subsequently, further delays in referral can mean many young people ‘give up’ on transitioning to adult services and therefore never get the treatment they need, having a huge effect on their future mental wellbeing with potentially dangerous consequences. Young people are in essence ’disappearing’ from these services and falling off the radar.
There is also the added funding stress on the NHS, with services in particular areas receiving less funding in mental health services than others, meaning fewer funds for each patient and therefore a lower referral rate. There is a variation from county to county as to what age is classed as eligible for transfer to adult services also. For example, a 16-year-old may transfer to AMHS if they are no longer within full-time education. If they are still in education, they will often not be transferred until they are 18 years of age, showing a contradiction between counties within the NHS.
These young people are being passed from pillar to post. A lack of communication is also present between the two services. Neither CAMHS nor AMHS appears to be making the effort to work in line with each other. This leads to information not being passed between the two mental health services and therefore, many young people will have to undergo another assessment before entering treatment. Understandably, this can also be quite traumatic for a young person.
These services need to provide continuity and routine for already venerable young people.
Between the ages of 16 to 18, young people with mental health are probably at their most venerable. They are often making important decisions about their education. Should they stay for further education or apply for an apprenticeship?
They will often have to make more intense life decisions about relationships and friendships as well.
So why, at their most venerable, are they being turned away from the support they need more than ever?
It’s a frustrating and worrying time for both young people and parents when they are left in this limbo period, often feeling as though their concerns are not being heard or ‘don’t matter’.
The Government invested £54 million in improving young people’s mental health services between 2011 and 2015. Yet young people are still not getting access to the services they need.
Have you or your child experienced the gap in services? How do you think the NHS could improve on this?
Leave me a comment!