"No one was listening to me"

Posted by Rhea Stevens / Monday 23 June 2014 / Early intervention Inequality

“I felt like one of those statistics you hear about on the news. No one was listening to me”

This was a comment by one of the young people we work with who spoke to Assembly Members a few weeks ago about their experience of mental health services in Wales. This young person explained that before getting the help she needed, she was scared and had no one to talk to.

“It's not right that you have to end up in hospital before anyone takes you seriously”.

For this young person her situation had to become much worse and she was admitted to hospital before she started to receive the support she needed.  Sadly, we know this young person is not alone. Children and young people in Wales are not consistently able to access the help they need early enough, and this needs to change. 

This conversation was part of the National Assembly for Wales' Children, Young People and Education Committee’s inquiry into of Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Wales. The committee is looking at what mental health support for children and young people in Wales there is, what is working well and what could improve.

“The therapy helps you think and understand what your mind is doing, so you can have a way of coping”.

The young people the Committee spoke to have received support from Action for Children in lots of different ways.  Some had received intensive support to help them overcome trauma. Others had therapeutic support to help them developing coping strategies for their mental health issues. 

“They take the time to know you and actually build a relationship so you can open up”.

It was really clear from all the young people that relationships and time really matter. Trusting relationships with empathetic and supportive professionals who young people have an opportunity to get to know over time were the things that young people saw as making the difference. “

 “You don't make us feel like freaks”.

This is how one young person described the difference Action for Children's support had made. The same young person described being assessed for different mental health support by a nurse who assessed her needs over the telephone:

“They phoned me, I didn't hear back about an appointment. I've been waiting 5 years so it probably means I won't”.

Young people were clear: there is some really brilliant support for young people out there in Wales; there is other support which needs to urgently improve. The thing that really mattered to these young people was getting the help you need early enough from people you trust and who help you develop ways of coping in the future so you can help yourself.

It's encouraging that Assembly Members have taken the time to speak openly and meaningfully with young people, though this has to be an ongoing dialogue. Children and young people need to have the opportunity to make sure those making decisions about them know what works for them, and act on it.

We'll be working with the Committee and others to make sure this happens, and that this is just the beginning of making real improvements both with and for children and young people.

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