Young people with mental disorders let down by low treatment targets, experts say

Young people with mental disorders are being let down by under-ambitious NHS treatment targets, experts have warned as they shunned the “snowflake generation” label.

Researchers claimed adolescents and students are not more emotionally brittle than their parents, instead “more likely to talk about anxieties and worries”.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Rachel Upthegrove (pictured) suggested health service ambitions to get 35% of vulnerable youngsters into treatment by 2020/21 would be unacceptable in other areas.

Only 25% of children and young people are receiving the treatment needed for diagnosable mental health conditions, NHS England figures from 2016 show.

Speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing, Dr Upthegrove, from the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, said: “It all comes back to parity of esteem, physical health and mental health disorders being given equal focus.

“I don’t think in any other branch of medicine – mental disorders and psychiatry is an equally weighted branch of medicine – would you expect that to be acceptable, that you intervene for one in three people with coronary heart disease or early diabetes.

“You wouldn’t countenance it, so no, it is not at all ambitious enough.

“We have got a long way to go until we get real parity of esteem.”

Teenagers and young people nowadays face regular derision over the alleged ease at which they become offended or upset, spawning the “snowflake generation” title.

But, asked by a reporter if the term was “fundamentally wrong”, Professor Matthew Broome, director of the Institute for Mental Health, said: “Probably.

“We have a young person’s advisory group who research with us and they will choose to say things about themselves, such as ‘I have a short attention span’ and ‘I have lots of anxiety’, but I’m not sure whether it’s true or different.

“I think they are resilient and have as much to give and are as tough-minded as any other generation, personally.”

Dr Upthegrove added: “The effects of this awareness-raising and destigmatisation of mental health disorders (are apparent) in this generation, who don’t see the same amount of need to hide things and to be very quiet about personal experience as my generation.

“They are much more likely to talk about anxieties and worries, which is generally a good thing if people are developing disorders and there is an intervention.

“Generally, my feeling is that it’s an after-effect of the reduction in stigma for this generation.”

Research published by the University of Birmingham this month claimed an extra £1.77 billion is needed to cope with the demand on mental health services for children and young people.

An additional 23,800 mental health workers would also be required to tackle the current pressures on provision for those aged 25 and under, it added.

Claire Murdoch, national director of mental health at NHS England, said: “The widely agreed improvement goals for young people’s mental health for the next few years were set by patients groups, psychiatrists and the NHS in the Mental Health Forward View.

“Achieving them will represent a major step forward, but is by no means the end of the journey, which is why the NHS long term plan will set out further gains for the decade ahead.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) University of Birmingham.