This week has brought with it the news that nearly a quarter of under 18s are turned away by mental health services, and for those who do get seen – waiting times have doubled in the last two years.
We have mental health service in crisis which allows treatment only when people reach crisis point.
Last night’s Panorama entitled: “I’m Broken Inside” showed us in full, heartbreaking technicolour how bad things have become.
“I’m not alright, I’m broken inside” are the haunting words of Sara plagued by cyber-bulling, self-harm, obsessive thinking and suicidal thoughts. Shunted hundreds of miles to a hospital just so she could receive the help she needed. Ultimately losing her life to mental illness because of a mental health system which is not fit for purpose.
I’ve said it before, can you imagine a child with a physical health problem being sent so far from home for treatment?
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service receives just 0.7% of the NHS budget – and yet 1 in 10 children in this country have a mental health condition.
We cannot allow more young people to die because of a failing system.
Young people with mental health conditions need and deserve to be treated near their families so that they can feel safe during recovery.
Young people’s darkest hours need to be seen and respected.
This has to change.
It feels hopeless to look at the statistics, the stories, the stigma.
There are things we can do, little things which cannot force change in the system, but that can support young people where we are.
The church is perfectly placed to make that difference.
We just need to step up.
I presented a keynote at the Churches Mental Health Consultancy last year setting out a vision for the mental health of the next generation and I said this:
We cannot serve the souls of young people by ignoring their minds and their hearts.
Use all the resources available to you to help equip yourself and your young people to have sound minds. Minds that are not trapped by mental illness or enslaved to self-harm.
We might not be able to cure mental illness – but we can clear the way and our hearts to see some purpose and hope.
Timothy Keller writes:
““Suffering can refine us rather than destroy us because God himself walks with us in the fire.”
He arms us, not with our power or our own love – but with His infinitely greater power and love.
His power to calm the waves when the storm wages.
His love which weeps with his friends.
His sound mind as he walked through his desert of temptation.
This is our vision for a future generation.
This is our vision for our generation.
So let’s go.
What, then can we do?
Well, I’ve put together a few simple ideas to get us started:
- Raise money to help a family afford to visit a young person in an inpatient unit.
- Support siblings, parents and friends of the young person; whether that be by sending round a meal, babysitting, or offering to give parents a break.
- Pray for your local mental health service, get in touch with them and ask how the local church can help. (It might be money, it might be toys, or a fresh lick of paint.)
- Get educated at spotting the signs that young people are struggling; whether it be books, training events or seminars at the festivals.
- Spend time with your young people, whether it be volunteering at youth club, local charity or becoming a mentor, let’s show our young people what they mean to the church – not just in the future to preserve our churches – but as people loved and valued by God – and by us.