Exam results day is likely to feel the most pivotal moment of life for young people. Months of anticipation will finally end in relief for some, but others may feel overwhelmingly disheartened by results they were desperately hoping would be better.
On this day, mental health will be a focal point, but this concern should extend to the wider picture of the system of care in place for children and young people, especially as we are yet to uncover the lasting negative impacts of the pandemic.
These years of significant life changes and often immense pressure can be difficult enough to navigate without the added hurdle of poor mental health.
An added blow is the notoriously long access to care and support despite persistent self-advocacy. After referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), the Scottish Government’s target to have 90% starting treatment within 18 weeks is consistently missed, extending a waiting period through a time of crisis.
Meanwhile, new issues such as the Covid-19 crisis and the rise in popularity of social media increase the numbers requiring support.
Matters are even worse for children and young people from low-income households and marginalised groups such as the BME community, who are disproportionately affected and represented in the waiting lists for treatment.
It is no surprise then that life satisfaction and the expectation for a happy future seems to be rapidly decreasing as young people are bombarded with crisis after crisis – from the climate to the cost of living – alongside the normal pressures of life.
The time for change and improvement needs to be now.
With the right mental health support, the trajectory of life can be changed dramatically. There is no moment more pivotal for this redirection than in youth. It can be the difference between a happy life, or adding to the statistics we often see of mental health problems being long-lasting, and therefore more difficult to fully recover from.
The gaps in the system have been evident for long enough. The transition between CAMHS and adult mental health services still needs significant improvement, places of education need to offer more informed and consistent support across the country, and there are wait times that must be cut significantly.
The #NoWrongPath campaign and rollout of the Young Person’s Guarantee from dedicated organisations such as SAMH are great initiatives, but we still need the government to drive for further and significant improvements.
The halfway review for the ten-year Mental Health Strategy is due in the coming months, and a renewed urgency to help young people will become evident.
How many more will pass through a system desperate for improvement and investment? It shouldn’t need to be stressed how much we need better for future generations, especially as it gets harder to be hopeful in this world.
Zainab has just completed a nine-month internship at SAMH. She cares deeply about normalising conversations around mental health, representation for people of colour and the importance of communities coming together.