Engage: Investment in early intervention key to cutting suicides among young

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Significantly more investment is needed in preventative measures to help improve young people’s mental health to avoid it becoming a potential life and death issue.

The plea was made by Martin Dorchester (pictured), chief executive of youth support charity Includem, speaking at a conference exploring the results of the Scottish Government’s Taskforce on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

He unveiled the extent of mental health problems within the group of 300 plus young people Includem works with every day.

“Mental health is one of the biggest issues we see facing the young people we deal with day in day out,” said Martin.

“Children in care or in the social justice system are three times more likely to have a mental health issue than those in what would be considered a more traditional upbringing.

“Early intervention to prevent a young person’s mental health from deteriorating will nearly always lead to better outcomes for them, and it’s far more cost effective than treating a problem once it fully develops. But we are currently not seeing the level of investment needed to achieve this, and we see the consequences of this all too often in the young people we work with.”

Includem works with young people across the country experiencing challenges dealing with day-to-day living. It offers tailored intensive support to build confidence and social skills to help them progress towards better lives. This may be working with them to achieve better school attainment, helping to keep families together or change potentially damaging behaviour patterns.

“The cost of mental health problems to the UK is more than £100 billion every year, but we only invest around £115 million every year in mental health research,” said Martin.

“This is a serious deficit in cause and effect. We currently have a model where we wait until an individual is in crisis before recognising something needs to be done. We need investment in people, skills and infrastructure that will help us to recognise mental health issues at an early stage and enable us to intervene effectively.

“Suicide continues to be the largest cause of mortality for young people under the age of 35. Until we accept that the current model to address mental health problems in this age group is not working, and do something about it, we are not going to make any significant inroads reversing this,’ he added.

For more on the work of Includem, visit: https://www.includem.org