Young peoples mental health

Have you seen the latest NHS Report on Mental Health in Young People?

Some keys points for me are:

  • One in seven I14.4%) of 11 to 16 year olds were identified with a mental disorder. One in sixteen (6.2%) met the criteria for two or more mental disorders.
  • Of these, the most common are emotional disorders, present in 9.0%. Then behaviour disorders at 6.2%.
  • While between 11-16, girls and boys were equally likely to have a disorder, girls were more likely to have an emotional disorder and boys a behavioural or hyperactivity disorder.
  • Between the ages of 17-19 about one is six (16.9%) had a mental disorder. 
  • However, young women of this age are a high risk group as it was found that nearly one in four (23.9%) had some type of mental disorder, 22.4% had an emotional disorder. 
  • Half (52.7%) of young women with a disorder reported having self-harmed or made a suicide attempt. 
  • The results are further broken down into sexual identity, ethnic group, socioeconomics and social and family context and other factors. 

Adverse Life Events

The report states that “children with a mental disorder were that likely than those without one to have experience certain types of adversity in their lives, like parental separation or financial crisis at home.”

I have written many times about the impact of adversity childhood experiences and this report shows again how significant they can be. What is also worrying is the one in five of the children in the survey waited over six months for contact with a mental health specialist. This is unacceptable when the risk of self-harm and suicide in these children and young people is greatly increased by having a disorder. 

We as a society need to do more.

What it’s like for young people in London?

I work with young people in schools part of the week and I’m constantly saddened and often horrified at what they have to put up with. Maybe the levels of violence and fear aren’t in all areas but they are common enough that it is a problem for all society.

Every time there is a news report in of another stabbing in my area of which there have been too many this week I am looking for names to see if it is someone I know. So far it hasn’t been and I feel relief at that.

That leaves me feeling shame as well that I’m relieved it isn’t someone I know. However, it will be someones loved one. Someone out there is left with the grief and the horror. This moving article is by the brother of a young man who was killed last year.

Children’s Mental Health

As a school counsellor this article on children’s mental health sadly comes as no surprise to me. Its a terrible struggle to get children and young people into mental health treatments. Too many are being turned away as not meeting the criteria and thresholds. 1 in 4 as this article quotes also seems too low based on my experience.

Its not just an issue for those being refused treatment, or even the schools picking up the slack as best they can.

Each of these children and young people will (hopefully) grow up to be an adult. Statistically a lot of adults with mental health issues are first seen in childhood. By failing to treat them effectively when they first appear there is a greater risk of them affective the person throughout their life. This impacts all of society, with the cost of this being extended not just on treatment but potentially less ability to work and more benefits are needed.

Its a short term cost saving but the long term is creating more misery and hopelessness when there can and should be hope and recovery.

As the article says, its very bleak.

Are you afraid to let the light in?

Do you find there are times when it can be hard to be anything but your suffering? I know I experience that.

Today I came across this quote and I found it so moving. Our wounds are painful and reminders of what we have been through, but they can be so much more. I identify the light as empathy. The ability and willingness to sit with someone else pain and to help them come to terms with it. To be able to reach deep understanding of others in a non-judgemental way. Without my own wounds I wouldn’t I don’t think I would have developed this ability to the extent I have.

What is your light?

Government mental health paper

A government report has been published on the topic of Improving access to mental health services and it makes for sobering reading. If you think this isn’t something that effects you, maybe these figures will make it clearer “One in four adults is diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives, but only around a quarter of people estimated to need mental health services have access to them.”

The conclusions in the report are summarised as follows:

1.Achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health is a laudable ambition but pressure on the NHS budget will make it very difficult to achieve.

2.Structures are not in place to enable joined-up working across government to ensure the most appropriate action is taken to support people’s mental well-being.

Around half of people with lifetime mental health problems experience symptoms by the age of 14 and schools play an important part in identifying mental health issues among young people, but counselling services are not available in all schools. 

 3.It is difficult for people to access the support they need because the way mental health services are designed and configured is complex, variable and difficult to navigate. 

The National Audit Office found, for example, that in 2014–15, the proportion of people able to access psychological therapy within six weeks of referral varied from 7% in one clinical commissioning group to 99% in another.

4.There is insufficient information about the numbers of mental health staff and their skills, and there is not yet a clear plan to develop the workforce needed to achieve parity of esteem. 

Current structures, practices and payment mechanisms do not incentivise commissioners and providers to deliver high-quality mental health services for all who need them. 

One of the points that I found particularly sad was this section on children and young peoples experiences accessing mental health services. In my work as a school counsellor I have witnessed first hand how long it can take to get a young person into specialist treatment and it can be a very distressing experience.

32.The Centre for Mental Health told us that it had recently completed a review of children and young people’s mental health. This work had found that it typically takes 10 years between the first symptoms of a mental health condition appearing and a young person having access to effective, evidence-based support. Delays were partly explained by low mental health literacy among parents, who found it difficult to know the difference between a mental health difficulty and ordinary childhood experiences, but also because of difficulty accessing services. Even when people made contact with services this could be a remote, formal and frightening experience.Written evidence from Bringing Us Together reinforced concerns about children and young people’s experiences of poor mental health care.

The link to the full report is

What are the core conditions?

I was really bothered by a news story a few days ago and very angry at the ignorance the individual at the centre of it displayed.

I don’t want to link to it and give it more attention, but basically a young man had no idea on what it was like for women to have their periods but felt qualified to spout opinions on the tampon tax which completely denied female anatomy.

How would I work with someone like this in the therapeutic space? Could I?

As therapists we can hear opinions that we disagree with every day, our client’s views and values may be different to ours and it’s something we have to find a way to cope with.

Like any model of therapy, the Person-Centred Approach has a lot of theory behind it but Carl Rogers the founder crystallised it into three Core Conditions. If these are present, then change can occur for the client.

The first is congruence, that the counsellor is congruent with the client. In respond to the opinions above, my first thought would be “You are a bloody idiot” but that really doesn’t sit with the next two conditions so maybe I will come back to that.

The second condition is that the therapist extends unconditional positive regard to the client. Rogers described this at times as “Prizing” his clients. If I think my client is an idiot, then that doesn’t really work.

The third condition is showing empathic understanding to the client. Letting them know you really get where they are coming from. It’s when I thought more about this I felt my views shift. What does a young man really know about a female body? He might have done some biology but not have been academic or too busy sniggering to take much notice. When it comes to the topic of our periods, we as females don’t on the whole share the details with men. If we don’t talk about the details, how do they really understand? Especially someone who is young and inexperienced.

So a way of showing my empathy might go something like “I understand that this is what you believe based on your knowledge of the female body….” because from the point of view of this person, that is truly what he believes.

Showing congruence with this perspective might mean adding “I know from my experience as a woman you are wrong in your view and I have to say that to you as otherwise it will get in the way of our working together”. How I say this, with an open and friendly manner can let the client see that I can still prize him while disagreeing with his opinion on this topic.

Unconditional positive regard doesn’t mean accepting everyone does as ok, it means being able to still value the person even if we dislike some of their behaviour or opinions.

However, I have to confess it took me a few days to really be able to begin to feel empathy with these views, so I don’t know if I could have got there in a therapy session.


I found this article on loneliness very moving and sad. there are so many lonely people yet it seems harder and harder for us to make meaningful connections with each other.

Its an issue that affects all age groups. I know how distressing it can be for younger people and children not covered by this survey as well who find it hard to learn how to develop social connections in the first place. This then follows them throughout their life.

Its important to acknowledge the difference between being alone and being lonely. An introverted person may be perfectly content with spending a lot of time alone and yet have enough connections in their life to never feel lonely.

An extravert may be surrounded by people at all times yet feel they are missing meaningful intimate connections and feel desperately lonely.

Its a complex social issue that impacts so many of us, but it also gets hidden because of the shame that comes with admitting it. So many of us are pretending that we are ok. Comparing ourselves negatively to others who seem to have it all and not noticing that actually we are not the only ones experiencing it. It takes enormous bravery to say “I am lonely”.

Do you know what makes you happy?

I’ve been doing some training (as counsellors always do a lot of additional training every year) and came across something called the Easterlin Paradox. It may be something you already know about but the name was new to me.


The basic premise is that while some money makes you happier, lots of it doesn’t increase your long term happiness. There are lots of fancy graphs online if you are interested in those but I found it gave me something to reflect on.

What makes me happy? What makes you happy? It may be different for each of us, but how often do we really take the time to explore it?

Giving ourselves the gift of time for self-reflection is such a valuable thing, possibly one of the greatest gifts we can actually give ourselves. Thats one of the things therapy gives us, the space for this self-reflection. To explore our values, what we really want out of life, what enhances our well-being and allows us to live a fulfilled – and happy life.

Why not give yourself that gift?

Reflective practice

Have you heard of the term reflective practice? For counsellors it is incredibly important and plays a big part of our work.

As counsellors we have duty to provide the best service possible to our clients. You trust us with your inner thoughts and feelings, we have to respect that by ensuring that we give you the best of ourselves.

We have a number of ways to do that. The first comes during our initial training. We explore our own history in detail and attempt to identify our sore spots, the parts of ourselves that are difficult to revisit and cause us pain. This includes our prejudices and why we want to be counsellors.

But as we are only human we have to keep checking into these things and watching out for new things that may come up in our lives.

If a client brings something into a session that we can identify with but haven’t worked on in ourselves that will block the client from being able to deal with it. For example if we have had a bereavement that we are still struggling with we would find it very hard to stay in the clients frame of reference.

So we spend a lot of time reflecting on our practice and the sessions we have with clients to pick up any areas we need to develop. This can start with some initial reflections after each season but we also have supervision.

We are duty bound to our professional organisations to have a minimum of 1.5 hours a month supervision. During this time we look in detail at some of the things coming up in our work to ensure the client is getting the best service we can provide. This can be one to one with a supervisor or in a group environment to get different perspectives. Our clients anonymity is still held in this space, by that I mean that although we may discuss some of the things they bring to sessions they are not identifiable. Confidentially is still covered.

We also engage in a great deal of training each year to ensure we keep are professional knowledge up to date and we are working on the areas that we feel we need to develop. We identify these from our own reflections, from the sort of themes our clients bring and feedback both from clients and those we have supervision with.

All of this effort put into reflective practice means that as counsellors, we are working safely and within our competency levels. It also means that we can identify our limits and recognise when self care is required.

Counselling at London Bridge

When it came to choosing where to set up an office for my private practice near London Bridge seemed an obvious location to me.

I knew it would be convenient both for clients who live in the area but also those who work locally and commute through the station, both tube and overground.

I was lucky enough to secure premises that I have for Friday afternoon and evening on Borough High street. Not only are they only a few minutes walk from London Bridge,  Borough tube is also very close.

Even more conveniently there is a bus stop right outside the building. Stop H heading south from London Bridge towards the Elephant currently has bus routes 21, 35, 40, 47, 78, 133, 343, C10 stopping at it due to the diversions in place.

The stop for people traveling from the opposite direction is just over the road.

As well as the convenience for clients to travel to therapy, the area offers lots of coffee shops. These can be useful if you arrive early, or need some time afterwards to process the session you have had.

Please contact me if you would like further information.