Teenagers are left waiting more than six months for mental health help leaving them close to breaking point - research finds
Schoolchildren and older teenagers have called for better mental health care after identifying it the most pressing issue for their generation.
Washington Youth Council brings together 11 to 19-year-olds from clubs across the town, giving them a voice as they urge for improvements.
Those who call into the clubs in Ayton, The Pit Stop in Washington Village, two in Sulgrave, the one based at Oxclose School and at the Millennium Centre in Concord, joined in a survey on what they believe to be the biggest problems they face.
Their research found the majority felt the most important issue is mental health, with the belief more must be done to improve services with their help, as well as better access at all times without long waiting periods.
Some shared their experiences, including one who was told there would be a 26-week wait to see a counsellor.
Another was immediately referred and passed to another service, which carried out an assessment, but then heard nothing more for weeks and was hospitalised after taking an overdose.
The report adds: “Only after reaching crisis point was the young person given priority for weekly counselling sessions.”
In addition to calls for increased mental health support, the survey found more was needed to help those with drug and alcohol problems, with a suggestion the link between the two issues is explored.
The third was the need for long-term backing and security for youth services after austerity cuts.
Among those to help put together the report was Sarah Adams, 15.
She said: “It’s important to listen to young peoples’ opinions so we know what they really want to do with their community and the services provided in Washington.”
“It is important to improve services for young people with mental health Issues as they currently have to wait long periods of time – and this shouldn’t happen,” added Alexander Gallon, 16.
Youth worker Kelly Barraclough, of Oxclose and District Young People’s Project, helped compile the report, which was presented to community representatives at an event at the Pit Stop.
She said: “This has been a huge piece of work, where the opinions of a large number of young people have been heard.
“International Youth Day was an ideal day to launch the report and demonstrate fantastic work carried out by local young people.”
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health care across Wearside, said it has been making changes to its children and young people’s services in the city and has met with youth groups to discuss how it can improve its support.
It has said waiting lists are a national issue, with referrals rising by 45% nationally during the last two years, possibly as mental health issues become less stigmatised.