A recent report has shown that university staff and students are scared to disclose mental health problems to their colleagues, peers and other staff. Universities are meant to be places of learning, understanding and enlightenment, but this culture of silence surrounding mental health is still prevailing.
If young minds are being formed whilst being part of this complicit ignorance of mental health, what chance then for this to change when they move on with their lives and take these same attitudes to their workplaces, homes and future families. Every day that this goes on it becomes harder and harder to change these ingrained attitudes. There is already almost irreparable damage being done in schools across the country, as over half of headteachers in the country believe that their pupils are being let down on mental health. More than 54% of headteachers reported that they believed the referral system for sending their pupils to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is not working.
With more and more children and adolescents suffering from mental health problems, it is essential that the systems we have in place can provide our young with the help that they desperately need, otherwise this will only culminate in them needing more help in the future. This sentiment has been echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said in response ‘Schools would never ignore a child with a physical health problem, so the same should be true of mental ill-health too’. For young minds to go on this conveyor belt of ignorance from childhood to adulthood, it should come as no surprise when the next generation are still suffering the same indignities of silence and even worse so. From external services, to schools, to education authorities and universities, the entire system needs a shake up and give prominence to mental health. But how can we even begin to assess the scale of the situation when the government does not provide committees tasked with reporting enough information to do so? A recently commissioned report’s main finding on the topic of children’s mental health was that the government has not provided enough information on the topic to draw necessary conclusion, which shows there is something inherently wrong. At all levels, dialogues need to be happening about mental health, MPs need to be lobbied and a holistic effort must be made to discuss, change and develop how we understand, cope with and engage with mental health issues. It is young minds which will form the future, and it is young minds which must be looked after.