Mental ill-health crisis requires us to listen to young people's concerns - Paul Carberry

Children’s Mental Health Week took place earlier this month and this year’s theme was Growing Together. The mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and families is an area Action for Children is heavily invested in and is something we are continually evolving and expanding our work in. A recent example of our progress in this field is the launch of our Sonas service in Moray.

Paul Carberry is the Action for Children director for Scotland.
Paul Carberry is the Action for Children director for Scotland.

Sonas (Happiness in Gaelic) is working to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of the children and young people in the local community and is run in partnership with Moray Council. It is comprised of a range of our different services including some of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based programmes we run in primary and secondary schools such as Bouncing Back and the Blues Programme.

The scale of the mental-ill health problem cannot be understated, it is a growing crisis. In the past 25 years, rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent. The impact of mental health problems on young lives is significant. Children and young people with mental health issues are more likely to have negative life experiences early on, which can damage their life opportunities as they enter adulthood.

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With that in mind, this crisis needs to be addressed as early as possible and our programmes and services in this area are centred on an early intervention and prevention approach. The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is a complex issue with no one-size-fits-all solution. Tackling the problem as early as possible is crucial but to do that effectively requires partnerships. Working with local authorities, health and social care, schools and other organisations gives us a broad spectrum of tools which meet the needs of children young people and families.

Through the partnerships we’ve been able to establish a single point of access, allowing for young people and families to receive access to the right support at the right time. Sonas works with the whole family to provide support as well as training for parents so they can feel better equipped to help their children with their mental health going forward.

One of the most valuable partnerships involved in our Sonas service is with the children and young people themselves. Listening to the voices of young people, to hear their concerns and ideas, is invaluable and is something we have instilled in the service.

The star of our Sonas launch event was undoubtedly Fraser Cameron, a young person who we have employed to spearhead capturing the views of young people via our ‘Expert by Experience group’. This group aims to deliver a co-production model to ensure the service is responsive to the needs of young people. I have been hugely impressed with Fraser’s passion, warmth and ability to reach the young people who were previously unwilling to seek help. Through his work, he has ensured their voices are heard and has helped connect our practitioners with them.

The mental-ill health crisis we are seeing with young people requires urgent attention, investment and partnerships but it also requires us to listen to the concerns of young people and be ready to adapt and tailor the support they need to ensure they have the best possible start in life. I’m immensely proud of the work we are doing in this area and optimistic about how we can work together to continue to make progress in the area.

Paul Carberry, Action for Children’s Director for Scotland

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