"This research will go a long way to help improve ways in which young people can self-refer for mental health therapies and treatment instead of contacting their GP first."
Research from an independent champion for people who use health and social care services has made a series of recommendations to improve children and young people’s mental health services. One recommendation, in particular, encourages the promotion of self-referral into these services. This information would encourage people to access services directly rather than take up time with their general practitioner (GP).
The Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead report surveyed children and young people and their parents and carers in Newcastle and Gateshead. The report makes a series of recommendations on how mental health support can be accessed independently.
The findings are particularly timely as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health sinks in. More young people are likely to struggle while GPs are under increasing strain.
A key finding was that not many people had heard of Kooth.com, an online counselling and support service, which is available to all young people in Newcastle and Gateshead aged 11 to 18, and those aged up to 25 if in local authority care. It is a confidential service that offers both drop-in and booked online chats with professional counsellors as well as self-help articles and peer support.
Cynthia Atkin, Interim Operations Manager at Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead, said: “As these results show, all too often people don’t know that there is good support readily available in their community. Our research highlights the benefits of accessing these services when it comes to mental health and the ways this can be done successfully.
“This means many young people with mental health issues can gain access to care without going through a lengthy referral process with their GP, or having to wait until their condition worsens before they are seen by a crisis team.”
Other key recommendations the report makes include:
· Promoting how the self-referral process works to encourage young people to do this instead of contacting their GP.
· Asking parents, carers and children and young people who have been through the experience about the information and support they received while waiting for their first appointment.
· Continuing to prioritise and put resources into reducing waiting times for the benefit of children, young people and their parents and carers.
· Hearing the experiences of children, young people, fathers and people from the black and minority ethnic community who have used Kooth or the self-referral process.
Cynthia concluded: “As the independent and trusted voice for social care and health services for everyone, we’re here to find out what matters to people and help make sure their views shape the support they need.
“This includes every part of the community, including people who sometimes struggle to be heard. This research will go a long way to help improve ways in which young people can self-refer for mental health therapies and treatment instead of contacting their GP first.”
Photo: Cynthia Atkin (Sound Ideas Media)
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