World Mental Health Day Q&A with Diarmid

We caught up with our colleague Diarmid Campbell-Jack, Senior Research Manager, on his thoughts on World Mental Health Day, young people and their mental health and programmes promising practice in this area. Check out the Q&A with Diarmid below: 

It’s World Mental Health Day. Is this really an issue or is the importance overstated?

Good question! Obviously mental health is something that we all have and is vitally important to ensuring we can live satisfying, fulfilled lives. There is solid evidence from large-scale, rigorous studies that prevalence of mental health issues is growing and is something we should be seriously concerned about. The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey has shown that in England the proportion of adults surveyed with conditions such as anxiety or depression rose from 24% in 2007 to 39% in 2014. About one in six met the criteria for a common mental disorder. These are vitally important figures that deserve close examination.

What about children and young people? There seems to be a lot in the news about their mental health.

It’s definitely something that has been hitting the headlines a lot more in the last couple of years. We know that fewer than one percent of NHS funding is estimated to go to young people's mental health, despite evidence suggesting that 1 in 10 have a diagnosable mental health problem. Figures for self-harm, particularly among girls are rightly causing serious questions to be asked. However, it’s not just that there are good signs that the proportion of children or young people with mental health issues is growing, it is that there is increasing evidence to suggest that an early intervention approach at this stage is beneficial.

What is being done around this at the moment?

Lots of work is definitely being undertaken at present to look into various issues. There’s a lot of people looking into the data in more depth to understand exactly how these issues have grown among different groups and trying to understand the linked factors. Equally, there are a lot of programmes being developed to look into ways of supporting people.

Any particular types of programme? Any promising practice around young people and mental health?

From our perspective as evaluators working on a number of mental health evaluations it is probably easiest to talk about the work we are looking into at the moment as this gives a good snapshot of the types of things that are underway at present. There’s clearly a lot of work at governmental level around the overall mental health system, with our evaluation of the initial Mental Health Schools Link programme having fed directly to the current Green Paper (we’re also evaluating the current iteration of the programme!). This is really important to ensure that young people are able to access the support that is required.

There’s also in-school programmes focused on young people themselves, such as our current evaluation of the Peer Support Programme across over 100 sites throughout England, and support being provided for school staff (as in our study on the Mentally Healthy website for The Royal Foundation). Finally, the Time to Change campaign, which we’re also evaluating, is a really interesting example of work to reduce the stigma around mental health that impacts all too often on those who should be fully supported by society.

So, what are the next steps?

Well, for us it is about continuing to work hard on these studies and continue to provide the best quality evidence possible so that people have the support required. This requires a lot of careful study design and analyse to really understand not just whether certain approaches are working, but exactly how they work and what lessons can be taken forward.

One final thing to note is going back to what I said at the start of this interview, that we all have mental health and it is something that affects us all. It’s really important to continue working to do all we can to support those who are negatively affected at any particular time but it is also key to make sure that everyone is encouraged to maintain the best mental health possible and that effort and consideration is put into how this can be achieved most effectively.