This article originally appeared as an opinion piece in the Edinburgh Evening News on 18/07/2016
YOUNG PEOPLE WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT SUPERFICIAL SOLUTIONS
By Thomas-Alexander McEachan MSYP
Speak Your Mind, is the title of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s (SYP) mental health campaign, and perfectly captures what our Parliament is encouraging young people to do. For too long mental health has been a taboo topic in which we have negative, whispered conversations about that often stigmatise those who are suffering.
Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) launched this campaign to help change the conversations we have about mental health, to ensure that young people understand what good mental health is, and to ensure that all young people in Scotland have high-quality mental health information, support, and services available to them.
At SYP young people’s rights are at the core of our mission and values, and we believe that our voices should be heard on all issues that affect us. To this end, we conducted research into young people’s experience and awareness of mental health information, support, and services. The result is one of the largest pieces of research on young people’s mental health here in Scotland.
One research participant described the mental health crisis being experienced by young people as “our generations epidemic”. This sentiment resonates with me as it encapsulates the enormity of the misery that young people are silently facing alone. ‘Epidemic’ is a powerful descriptor because it triggers an image in my mind of Hollywood pandemic movies where there tends to be little information about a disease, little help for those who are infected, and a superficial attempt from governments to patch up the problem after the fact. Excusing the dramatic nature of the analogy, the resemblance between Hollywood’s version of an epidemic and the epidemic which is harming the young people of Scotland is troubling.
SYPs research report, which we appropriately named Our generations epidemic, evidences the magnitude of the problem. One disconcerting revelation from the report is that 74% of young people (3 out of 4) do not know what mental health information, support, and services are available in their area. Participants also reported that services aren’t universally available, and vary greatly depending on where you live. The services that do exist are so over-stretched that some research participants reported waiting a year or more for appointments.
Based on the findings, and the ideas of young people contained in the research, we have drawn up a list of recommendations. MSYPs all over the country will be advocating for the implementation of these recommendations at both a local and a national level. This ‘epidemic’ young people are experiencing is unacceptable in modern Scotland, and our voices must be central in tackling the problem and creating solutions. To return to my Hollywood film analogy, young people will no longer accept superficial bandages over the problem. We want to go deep into the core and eradicate this epidemic for us and for all future generations of young people.
Find the full report here: Our generation's epidemic