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Mental health awareness all year round

Mental health awareness all year round

Posted by: admin | 14 May 2018| Categories: Reports

According to a recent study by Barnardo’s in England, nearly two thirds of care leavers who were identified as having mental health needs were not receiving any help from a statutory service. This is a worrying finding because care leavers in Scotland are now entitled to receive aftercare support until they are 26.

There are many reasons why care experienced people may hesitate to seek support for their mental health. After listening to people here at the Forum, we’ve learned that there was often a culture of silence in care. Many children were fearful of speaking out or being perceived as ‘complaining’, and the impact of this often extends into adulthood. We’ve also learned that many care experienced people are unaware of the resources available to them or are unsure how to reach out for help.

Following up on their research, Barnardo’s made a few recommendations for rethinking the mental health needs of vulnerable young people in England:

  • Embedding mental health workers within leaving care teams
  • Developing youth-specific services aimed at those in their teenage years and early 20’s
  • Working to upskill those in leaving care services to understand mental health better.

One of the functions of the Forum is to develop recommendations for policy and practice to improve care in Scotland by listening to the experiences of care-experienced individuals. We agree with Barnardos' recommendations, and based on what we’ve heard so far, we have some additional suggestions for Scotland.

For children, we know that a key issue in care is lack of continuity in their school placements. This in an area that could be improved. The disruption caused by changing schools means missed opportunities to sustain meaningful relationships with teachers. It also prevents the development of hobbies and bonds with friends, which can protect children and young people from mental health problems, build self-esteem, and develop identity. The Scottish Mental Health Strategy 2017 identifies the emotional distress caused for children by becoming ‘looked after’. Consistent responses and accessible support needs to be provided to children by services which understand trauma and the impact on a child’s attachments of being in care. 

For adults, we must work to reduce the stigma around mental health problems and asking for help. Nearly half of the care experienced people who have spoken to us mentioned mental health problems. Some described mental health problems as an additional obstacle in getting the support they needed from statutory services. Many said they feel shame or stigma because of it. The need for services to respond sensitively to those with mental health problems and care experience is a must if people are to get the mental health support they need as adults.

The time for action is now: during Mental Health Awareness Week but also all year round. The care system must work to maintain consistency in children’s lives and all of us can do our part to help challenge the stigma around mental health problems and asking for help. Although the Forum is not an ongoing support agency, you can find additional resources about a variety of issues relevant to care experience on our website.

At the Forum, we listen to the experiences of people who were in care in Scotland. Positive or negative - not judging, just listening. If you'd like to find out more, please contact us  or call us on 0800 121 4773.

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