Healthwatch Essex report finds that 8 in 10 young people don’t know how to access mental health services

Our study of young people’s experiences of health and care in Essex found that 8 in 10 young people in the county are not provided with information about how to access mental health services, despite many needing the support.

The study reports that young people’s experiences of health and social care services in Essex are mixed, with many young people reporting positive experiences of kind frontline staff such as A&E nurses and paramedics.

However, the report also found that 7 in 10 participants had not heard of the 111 service and 85% of participants had not heard of walk-in centres but were enthusiastic about them, and wanted them to be promoted more. Many young people reported presenting to A&E because of their difficulties in accessing GPs or finding alternative appropriate services.

Overall the study found that young people have valuable experiences and opinions about health and care, but they feel that they’re rarely listened to.

One young person told us: “I’m tired of being told we don’t understand, or we don’t know anything about what’s going on and that our views aren’t good enough.”

Healthwatch Essex, in partnership with Essex Boys and Girls Clubs, spoke to 414 young people from across Essex, aged 15-19, during the National Citizen Scheme (NCS).

We asked the young people to share their experiences of health and care services, and asked them about their knowledge of available services for mental health, sexual health, drugs and alcohol, smoking, learning disabilities and young carers.

We devised three principles that formed the key to our uniquely successful engagement with participants:

1. ‘Explain’: participants were assured that the study wasn’t just a ‘tick box exercise’ and that the participant’s voices were collected in order to affect positive change.

2. ‘Empower’: participants were made to feel as comfortable as possible in informal and unstructured focus groups and were empowered to raise the issues most important to them.

3. ‘Enjoy’: every effort was made to ensure that they found the sessions enjoyable and useful.

Watch our ‘sofa film’ on the lived experience of young people in Essex.