Manifesto - Mental Health

Poor mental health can have a dramatic impact on the prospects of a young person’s life and more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed during their childhood[i]. Whilst it was diagnosed in childhood less than half of these were not treated appropriately at the time and there are still worrying trends that negative consequences, such as self-harming amongst young people, are increasing[ii].

Awareness is still a significant issue with young people suggesting that there is inadequate information in the media, school and on the internet around what mental health is and how support can be accessed.

The importance of delivering mental health guidance in settings familiar with young people is paramount. Nurses and practitioners should come into schools and work with young people to talk about the issues. Additionally, more information should be available to those who interact with young people frequently. Teachers and youth workers would be ideally placed to support young people at an early stage but would need training to enable a greater understanding of mental health.

Another area which could benefit from more training on mental health issues would be Jobcentre Plus. Our research[iii] has shown that those young people who access the job centre found that staff were not aware of the complexities of their needs and unresponsive when informed. Training on how to support young people accessing both Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Jobcentre Plus would be welcomed.

For both young people and YMCA staff there is complete lack of trust or confidence in the National Health Service (NHS) to support them with through poor mental health. CAMHS are seen as ineffective, unhelpful and poorly operated. The waiting lists for an appointment are too long and YMCAs have seen some instances where the wait for an appointment can be in excess of six months.

YMCA believes that the CAMHS age range needs to be reviewed. A number of cases have been identified where a young person transferring from CAMHS into adult mental health services has not been adequate and they have effectively become lost in the system. Those who have accessed CAMHS described the child element of the service to be good but the adolescents extremely poor.  It was felt that extending the age range for which CAMHS are responsible for to 21 would increase continuity and renew focus on the 16-21 years  where young people often have the highest support needs.


  • A campaign should be introduced which raises awareness of mental health issues and the available support targeted specifically at young people.
  • Mental health should be given the same priority as physical health with NHS budgets.
  • The waiting times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services need to be cut with access to a first appointment available within one week.
  • The age limit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services responsibility to provide care should be increased to 21 years old and where possible a single key worker should be assigned to each young person to ensure that continuity and trust can be developed.
  • Professionals working or frequently interacting with young people should be trained in mental health issues.


[i] Kim-Cohen, J., Caspi, A., Moffitt, TE., et al (2003): Prior juvenile diagnoses in adults with mental disorder. Archives of general psychiatry, Vol 60, pp.709-717.
[ii] House of Commons, 28 November 2011, cols 782-786W
[iii] YMCA England, Feeling The Benefits?: Processed and Punished, 2014