THE mother of a young woman who suffers from anxiety and depression recently told me that she lives in fear that one day her daughter Tess will take her own life.
The first sign of there being a problem began during A-levels and as she prepared to leave home to attend university.
She was, sadly, back at home before the second term was over.
“We are with her almost every minute of the day but at night, when she closes her bedroom door, she will be straight onto her phone. I wake in the early hours and check my WhatsApp and it always reads, Tess online. It doesn’t matter what time I look it’s always the same, Tess online,” the mother told me.
In this rapidly changing technological world, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder, amongst many others, have become the online platforms of social interaction for children and young people who already face enormous challenges.
The pressure to achieve and perform well in schools, colleges and universities – added to the difficulties some face as a result of family breakdown or peer pressure – all amount to some of the contributing factors that daunt many young people who struggle to cope and have no idea where to turn to in their community for help.
We must all play our part in identifying the signs of deteriorating mental health in children and young people, remove the residual stigma still attached to mental health and do all we can to ensure young people can access the help and support they need in their local area in order to remain well.
The Government’s key aim is for 345,000 more children and young people to have access to the mental health support services they need by 2024 including via mental health support teams in and around schools where early intervention can have hugely successful results.
But it’s not only NHS services that can make a difference. Support near to home, in communities, close to friends and families is vital.
That’s why we have announced a major boost to better support children and young people in their communities.
A £3.3m investment for 23 initiatives across the country is a welcome step towards helping to prevent and manage mental illness in children and young people and help signpost them to the services they need, when they need them.
By expanding already successful mental health projects with well-established links in communities, more people aged 25 and under will be able to access mental health support on their doorstep.
These fantastic projects cover a wide range of initiatives, from opening up the arts to young people to increase their confidence and reduce isolation to more training for parents in how to deal with their child’s mental health.
As with Tess and others, change is often the trigger for mental health problems during transition from primary to secondary school or from school to college or university.
Many of the projects to receive additional funding will support young people across the UK as they move through the education process in order to achieve improved long term outcomes for those already presenting with early signs of poor mental health.
One of the projects based in Yorkshire will offer 16-25 year olds arts activities in a therapeutic environment with the support of a trained professional – helping to increase their skills, confidence and reduce isolation.
Another in Bradford offers family counselling to help families navigate challenging times such as financial hardship, social isolation and substance abuse. For this service, a referral pathway will also be developed with school nurses and school staff, to ensure children are supported at school when they face difficulties at home.
We’re making great strides in putting mental and physical health on an equal footing but there is more to do. This investment complements our work to transform mental health services through the NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £2.3bn a year.
I look forward to seeing how these projects will improve early intervention and prevention and allow young people like Tess to quickly access the help and support they need and to take control of their own mental health at the earliest stage possible.
Nadine Dorries is a Conservative MP and the new Mental Health Minister.