At the tender age of 10, Mia's family becomes aware of her need for mental health support. Regrettably, their attempts to seek assistance are met with hindrances and denials, exacerbating her condition and bringing her perilously close to the brink of death.In a recent interview, Mia has opened up about her long and challenging journey to receive the mental health support she desperately needed. She recounts how, at a young age, she expressed concerns about her abnormal situation but was dismissed by those around her. Despite maintaining good academic performance, Mia's mental health deteriorated to the point of crisis. At just 12 years old, she began self-harming and experienced overwhelming feelings. It was only after a breakdown and a serious incident at school that she finally received the help she needed, being admitted to a psychiatric unit. Reflecting on her experience, Mia believes that earlier intervention could have prevented her decline into crisis.
Mia emphasizes the crucial role of mental health care in saving lives and likens it to the care provided for cardiac and diabetes patients. She asserts that without support when mentally unwell, it is impossible to lead a healthy and happy life. Her story shines a light on the flaws within a system that is currently in crisis, as children and young adults across the nation face extensive waits for specialized mental health care. Recent estimates from NHS England indicate that a quarter of 17 to 19-year-olds likely suffer from a mental health disorder, marking a significant increase from one in 10 just six years ago.
David Barker and his team at Youth Talk are doing their best to provide confidential counseling services for individuals between the ages of 13 and 25. However, the overwhelming influx of young people seeking assistance has stretched their resources to the limit. Despite doubling their capacity, they find it insufficient to meet the growing demand. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing struggles faced by young people regarding their mental health, resulting in long-term consequences. Additionally, community health services are inundated, with children waiting an average of 91 weeks for autism spectrum disorder assessments and 72 to 207 weeks for ADHD assessments, as revealed by an NHS Providers survey.
Jenna Hughes, a mother of two, shares her own frustrating experience with the lack of timely diagnosis and support for her children. Her eldest child had to wait three years for a diagnosis, and her youngest has already been on a waiting list for a year. This lack of help has not only taken a toll on Jenna's own mental health but has also strained her entire family. The demand for mental health services shows no signs of abating, and according to the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, waiting lists for children and young people are projected to more than double by next year without swift action. The chief executive of the trust, Elliot Howard-Jones, explains that the primary challenge lies in finding the necessary staff to address this growing crisis promptly.
Now 21 years old, Mia is thriving academically, currently in her final year of a wild animal biology degree at the Royal Veterinary College. She has achieved top grades in her A levels, demonstrating her exceptional abilities. However, the outcome of her journey could have been starkly different, and if urgent action is not taken, countless struggling children will continue to face immense adversity in the realm of mental health.