Eliza’s searingly-honest film about teenage mental health and how the right help is hard to find

With Eliza Gardner, teenage mental health campaigner

Children's Mental Health Week gives rise to grimmer statistics every year and of course, the pandemic has had a significant hand in that.

The Government has tried to put a positive spin on things claiming the newly-published State of the Nation report, "shows an improving picture in their recovery from the pandemic." But when you drill down into the report itself, you can see that it's only a tiny improvement, and only in some areas. Children with SEND, as ever fall way behind.

Particular groups of concern for poorer mental health outcomes were those with SEN, those eligible for FSM, and those with long-term physical health conditions (Co-Space, 2021; NHS Digital, 2021a). Rates of probable eating problems were particularly high among older (17- to 19- versus 11- to 16-year-olds) and female respondents. While around half of all children and young people reported that they were concerned about the effects that the pandemic had had on their mental health, this figure was higher for girls than boys. Supporting the idea that children and young people's mental and physical health could have changed in response to their personal pandemic experience, respondents' subjective assessment of their coping during the pandemic, as well as parent-report measures of disruptions to family life, were associated with greater worry about their mental and physical health for the future (The Children's Society, 2021). Further, reductions in mental health as measured in the LSYPE2 were more pronounced for those who reported that Covid-19 had negatively impacted their lives. Considering children and young people's physical health in 2021, there was evidence that physical health among children and young people had declined in recent years. Obesity rates increased substantiallv between 2019/20 and 2020/21 among both reception and Y6 age children, accelerating a trend which has continued for at least the previous 15 years (NHS Digital, 2021b). Children and young people most likely to be obese in 2020/21 were those in Year 6 compared to those at reception age, boys compared to girls (at Year 6 but not reception age), and Black and Asian children compared to white children (NHS Digital, 2021b)
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Although the Government are putting money into mental health initiatives in schools, a new study from youth-led community organisation Conscious Youth has shown that a massive 83% of children want positive mental health to be explicitly taught. We must listen and act on this.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to my 17-year-old niece, Eliza Gardner, who has created this searingly-honest, excellent, short film about her and her friends' experiences with mental health before, during and after the pandemic. We, and Eliza, would love you to watch, discuss, and share her film that starkly illustrates how difficult it is for young people to get the right therapy (not just anti-depressants) they need to recover, thrive and have the positive future they deserve. This is also a vital film for school pastoral teams and mental health leads to watch, to see an honest response from the young person's perspective. It also includes tips from teenagers themselves to help keep going -- because you are needed and truly loved.

Eliza: Teenagers are really suffering with their mental health and the right help is hard to find

Eliza Gardner

Hi everyone, my name is Eliza, I’m 17 and the creator of the film below. I was 15 years old when I first started having issues with my mental health. Two years later not much has changed. If anything, it’s worse. I was also a sort of ‘party girl’ for a bit and when I was doing that I met a lot of teenagers drinking and smoking to deal with mental health issues to find a way to cope.

While I’ve been going through my journey, I’ve had many moments of reflection about myself and the things that went wrong. One of the factors I kept coming back to is the neglect from mental health services throughout. This was also something many of my friends who were also within CAMHS mentioned, in fact, one person told me he was discharged from CAMHS despite having ADHD and clearly having severe mental health problems. He lost his support and many others don’t even get it until it’s too late.

So I concluded that things really need to change. The government's interest in looking after teenagers and young people seems mainly to be blaming them for rising Covid cases, not protecting their mental health which we can see through figures is often very poor. It is a crisis and one that needs to be solved before more young people suffer or try to take their lives.

We need enough people to truly see and hear from real young people the extent of the pain they are feeling and the suffering they are dragging themselves through every day. We need people to get angry and the government to see the mess they’ve made.

If you'd like to donate to Eliza's fundraiser for Mind you can do so here

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Tania Tirraoro

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