Annual health crisis: youth mental health

Editor’s note: Please bear in mind, this is a working title. In an event hosted by Cameron Mackintosh in London on Monday, the new surgeon general Dr Jerome Adams unveiled a four-pronged prevention plan…

Annual health crisis: youth mental health

Editor’s note: Please bear in mind, this is a working title.

In an event hosted by Cameron Mackintosh in London on Monday, the new surgeon general Dr Jerome Adams unveiled a four-pronged prevention plan that aims to stop the problem.

He gave examples of “dark-skinned” youth that described feeling like they are racist bullies. There was another, who is “very concerned about his sexuality” but who is “asked so often by others to work on Halloween”, Adams said. He then gave examples of a schoolboy who went home after a racist insult and thought about what he had learned at school about how to defend himself and how it could hurt someone. He said a boy had been called a w**ker on the bus home from school and thought about his dad’s experience of coming to terms with it.

It is commonplace for people of African descent and other people from minority groups to have their bullying experiences mis-recorded as “loose talk,” he said. “That means that there’s another out there going through the same experience every day. People don’t know they’re suffering from a mental illness and they don’t know they need help and support.

According to the surgeon general’s initiative, which was originally launched in 2013, young people are at the forefront of the mental health crisis. The World Health Organisation estimates that one in four school children and young people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Youth are thought to be at greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and substance abuse compared to older people.

The Guardian and the Harold S. Carter Diabetes & Endocrinology Research Centre have joined forces to raise awareness of issues affecting young people in Scotland and will launch a project to support this work.

Dr Neville Smith, from the University of Stirling’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, will work closely with colleagues in both the Scottish and UK public services on this project.

Smith said: “I’ve been really impressed by the [surgeon general’s] initiative which offers a practical and much needed approach to recognise, treat and prevent mental health problems in young people. Something in common among all mental health problems is that young people suffer most. Yet often when problems are identified young people feel unable to seek help. So preventing mental ill health issues is in our interests.”

The collection of programmes over two years will be launched together in Scotland in November, and then nationally in 2020. Two years later, the programmes will be assessed to see if they are working. The four areas of focus of the four-pronged prevention strategy are (1) early interventions to improve the lives of young people, (2) early identification of individuals, (3) early recognition of services, and (4) educational interventions to make sure young people learn about the connections between mental health and physical health.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

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