Problems of mental health among young people

Sandra Patton, Ashton KCJ

Sandra Patton, Ashton KCJ - Credit: Archant

Legally Speaking with Ashtons Legal

I have written here before about the serious shortcomings in the provision for mental illness, particularly locally.

But I make no apology for returning to it again.

In particular, I want to tell you about the alarming rise in mental illness among the young.

We are only just beginning to appreciate the pressures under which we place children as they grow towards adulthood.

Data collated by the MindEd Trust shows that half of all mental illness first occurs first before the age of 14.

Three quarters is established before the end of higher education.

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Yet there is little or no provision for recognising young people under stress and reaching out to them before they become ill.

Only 6% of the mental health budget is spent on young people, and only 3% of the national medical research budget is spent on mental health.

Far too many of the young people concerned go on to take their own lives, as I’m only too well aware.

My job is often to represent their grieving families at the inquest, and then again perhaps later in a civil claim.

It’s easy to see why families so often feel they have to go to the law for explanations and apologies for what happened to their loved ones.

One of our cases here at Ashtons Legal involved a young man who had already threatened suicide and was assessed as high risk.

But it was more than two weeks after that first diagnosis before the NHS trust concerned got round to contacting him – by letter! – proposing he attend a meeting a whole month after that…

During that time he took his own life.

Another case involved a talented young man apparently with his whole life before him. He was due to go to Cambridge University. He didn’t get there. He took his own life on the railway tracks near his home. Nobody knows why.

We were recently involved in a conference at that same university, to try and find ways of bringing to an end this monstrous waste of young life. The pressures of school and university and the growing pains of adolescence and early adulthood can seem overwhelming for a young person trying to make sense of the world.

We must recognize those pressures and do all we can to mitigate them.

Sandra Patton

Head of Medical Injury

01473 849950

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