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Tue Jun 11| Policy & Public Affairs Transforming Lives

Mental health & children and young people – in conversation with includem

*where family is used this refers to all iterations of family  

Last week I sat down to speak to our colleagues who currently support children and young people aged 10 – 24 (or up to 26 if care experienced) with their mental health. As part of our #TransformingLives campaign I wanted to gain a better understanding of the challenges that children and young people face, and how we support them.  

Anxiety, is the most common reason for referral to the service my colleagues provide, closely followed by difficulties regulating emotions, and isolation. How that affects children, young people and families differs widely. Some of those we support had stopped engaging with schools, others self-harm to regulate their emotions, others can no longer leave the house.  

I asked the team about their thoughts on what is contributing to the anxiety that children and young people are experiencing. Immediately they highlighted the number of transitions children experience and how much of an impact they can have on a child or young person’s mental health. Colleagues are also clear that for those we support have been significantly impacted by the COVID19 Pandemic. Children missed social opportunities, crucial transitions, and as a result are now struggling to be confident when in their community, find it difficult making friends, and the routine and environment of school challenging. Social media also continues to have an impact on children and young people, with a lot of the work we do focused on increasing young people’s confidence and tackling negative body image.  

Children and young people we work with are supported to identify what changes they want to make. This support is then developed with the child and young person, to match their needs and goals. The team told me about one young person they were supporting who needed CAMHS support but was unable to attend the appointment. Includem were able to support the young person to ‘get through the door’, where CAMHS were able to provide the young person with support.  

Other children and young people are anxious about leaving their home, or speaking to anyone who is not their immediate family. We teach children and young people cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), equipping them with the skills and knowledge to manage their emotions where possible.  

Although we primarily work with children and young people, we support parents and care givers where this is beneficial for the young person.  

We recognise that young people’s mental health affects family dynamics with parents and carers not necessarily having the skills to talk about mental health or manage it. For children and young people, as well as their families, includem workers are neutral and can facilitate conversations for the benefit of the child or young person.  

We help young people & parents communicate in a more productive way and support understanding of each other.  

Coping strategies that the child or young person has been learning can also be shared with family members so they can continue working with the child or young person once our support comes to an end.  

In some cases, colleagues have supported the wellbeing of parents, so they are in a better position to support their child’s wellbeing. We are clear, however, that the needs of the child or young person come first and that any support parents and carers is for the benefit of the child or young person.  

The value of partnership working came across strongly during our conversation. Colleagues value the knowledge they gain from partners, and championed “the right support, at the right time”. One example of this partnership in action is our work with schools to support engagement. 

A few colleagues spoke about supporting children and young people to learn coping skills to manage their emotions. How they share this information with education settings has promoted greater understanding of the child/young person and better support in education. In other instances, we work alongside other services to address the child or young person’s needs. For example, young people may receive self-harm support from CAMHS but will work with includem to gain confidence in their local community, or in specific settings. Good partnership working also means we can signpost those we work with to services and supports that complement our work or will continue to provide support once our support ends.  

Finally, I wanted to find out what needs to change for children and young people to enjoy better mental health. The burden of poverty on families and children and young people, as well as the associated stigma, are always mentioned when discussing mental health. My colleagues highlighted the need for more accessible services. Navigating a complex system of referrals, eligibility criteria and professionals which can cause some families to further withdraw from formal supports and the delay can mean early intervention is no longer possible.  

What stood out to me too, was a comment by a colleague that we should also take great care to think of the children and young people who are traditionally ‘forgotten’. They are the children and young people who are currently not in education; they are the children and young people who are in conflict with the law; the children and young people whose families have negative experiences of services and are reluctant to ask for help, fearing the worst. 

If we want to transform lives, mental health supports and services for children and young people must be:  

  • easily accessible,  
  • meet the needs of those in receipt of them, and  
  • led by the goals of the child or young person 

To find out more about our campaign, or about the work we do to with children, young people and families please visit  



Lisa Weylandt,
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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