Telegraph roundtable: "More must be done to promote the early signs of mental health"

More needs to be done in Sheffield to promote the early signs of poor mental health in young people, build resilience and reduce the stigma around the subject.

Tuesday, 13th February 2018, 12:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th February 2018, 12:50 pm
A Sheffield Telegraph roundtable on mental health and wellbeing

That was the key messages to come from a roundtable organised by the Sheffield Telegraph with representatives from mental health charities and organisations in Sheffield.

The discussion centered around what is being done in the city around to promote mental health and wellbeing and help youngsters - and what more could be done.

BethanPlant, health improvement principal in the public health team at Sheffield Council

The city is leading the way nationally its Sheffield Healthy Minds framework, which is being rolled out to all schools across the city.

The programme has seen mental health champions recruited in 10 primary and secondary schools to help to tackle stress-related illnesses such as depression, eating disorders and self-harm among pupils.

It has also included developing a 'whole school approach' to students’ emotional well-being through training, surveys, educational tools and supporting staff in their understanding of good mental health and early help.

A recent survey of 8,000 schoolchildren in Sheffield offered a glimpse into youngsters mental health and the problems they face.

Rena Smith, from Sheffield Interchange

Homework worries, lack of sleep and relationships with peers all negatively impacted on their mental health and wellbeing.

Bethan Plant, health improvement principal in the public health team at Sheffield Council, said lots is being done at national level, and across Sheffield, to transform mental health and emotional wellbeing services.

She said it is often friends that young people talk to first about any issues they are having, and not adults and more people need to know the early signs so they can get access to help earlier.

She added: "It's about promoting that and the development of resilience.

Jenny Allen, from South Yorkshire Eating Disorders Association

"It's about what we do when we are not feeling great and how we manage and cope with that."

Jenny Allen, from South Yorkshire Eating Disorders Association agreed that youngsters need to build up resilience and said more must be done to reduce the stigma around mental health.

She said early interventions and prevention was the key to reducing the number of eating disorders.

"We have got to build up resilience. There are so many other mental health issues that if children can learn to build resilience into their wellbeing then that's how we move forward," she added.

Gail Gibbons, chief executive of Sheffield Futures

Gail Gibbons, chief executive of Sheffield Futures, that more must be done to promote the holistic therapies and activities that youngsters can do to improve mental health and wellbeing, such as yoga, going for a walk and cooking.

She said: "We need to promote that you are not a crazy person if you are feeling this way, it's normal and the solutions can often be simple.

"It's about addressing the stigma and making it OK for people to talk."

The youth charity runs Door43, an informal space for Sheffield's young people to come and talk about their feelings and Gail said more needs to be done to encourage other spaces like this to be set up, for parents and friends of individuals, as well as the youngsters who are suffering with problems.

"What we are trying to do is work collaboratively so we are not duplicating and try and set up more support services," said Gail.

"We know we are not the only cafe and we are hoping to spark interest so that more set up."

Patrick Callingham, from youth charity Endeavor

Rena Smith, from Sheffield Interchange, a young people's counselling and emotional wellbeing support service, said relationships and building up trust was key to helping young people open up and deal with their problems.

She said speaking to other youngsters who have gone through similar things often had 'incredible' results.

"It's quite incredible how that influence from people who have experienced similar problems and how they have overcome challenges have been so inspiring for other young people that they have gone on to do well themselves."

The charity has set up an online counselling page as another way for youngsters to be able to get help.

A Government green paper on plans to transform children and young peoples mental health includes a proposal to have a mental health lead in every school and college.

Patrick Callingham, from youth charity Endeavor, said often the young people who need help are missing or not in mainstream education and so are at risk of not getting the help they need.

He said the charity has a project which helps some of these youngsters who aged between 13 and 25.

He added that social media was a growing problem in young people's mental health and wellbeing, with youngsters often having two lives - an online one and a 'real world' one.

"They find that they post something on Snapchat and it's out there. Once it's out there they cannot take it back again," he said.

BethanPlant, health improvement principal in the public health team at Sheffield Council
Rena Smith, from Sheffield Interchange
Jenny Allen, from South Yorkshire Eating Disorders Association
Gail Gibbons, chief executive of Sheffield Futures
Patrick Callingham, from youth charity Endeavor