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‘I was left to fend for myself’: Young people highlight long waits for mental health treatment

PUBLISHED: 10:43 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:33 21 May 2020

Young people highlight long waits for mental health treatment in Norfolk and Suffolk in new film. Picture: Getty Images

Young people highlight long waits for mental health treatment in Norfolk and Suffolk in new film. Picture: Getty Images

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Young people from across Norfolk are still facing long waits for mental health treatment despite improvements to services, the makers of a new documentary highlighting the issue have warned.

Alyssa Girvan who has directed a documentary made by volunteers highlighting the issue of mental health services for young people in Norfolk. Picture: Alyssa GirvanAlyssa Girvan who has directed a documentary made by volunteers highlighting the issue of mental health services for young people in Norfolk. Picture: Alyssa Girvan

Under pressure services means some people are facing waits of up to two years, and the coronavirus crisis could make it worse, claim the makers of the film While We Wait, which includes 10 personal stories.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust has been in crisis for at least five years and two years ago was branded the worst trust in the country.

It has seen numerous leadership changes with Jonathan Warren the latest chief executive to promise improvements.

In its last inspection, the Care Quality Commission identified some improvements and upped the trust’s rating to “requires improvement” though it remains in special measures.

The NSFT service for children and young people on 80 St Stephens in Norwich. Picture: GoogleThe NSFT service for children and young people on 80 St Stephens in Norwich. Picture: Google

In February an inspection at its centre at St Stephens Road in Norwich - one of the trust’s 18 specialist community services for young people, saw it rated “inadequate”.

Among concerns raised was that young people on waiting lists are not always adequately monitored or supported and waiting lists were “confusing” and “ineffective”.

Staff admitted to significant concerns that they could not manage caseloads safely, it added.

MORE: Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list

The film’s director Alyssa Girvan, 24, was inspired to make it after going through my own mental health crisis in 2018.

She said: “I was very unwell and was put on a waiting list for treatment. In the meantime, I had very little support from the mental health services and was very much left to fend for myself. This is something that I found to be a common experience with those who had also sought help for mental health in Norfolk.

“I came out of this experience, thankfully, and decided that a film would be a good way to get the message across.”

Among the 10 people sharing their story as part of While We Wait some had waited five months for an initial phone call from mental health services to assess what therapy they needed. Some were on waiting lists for over two years.

Miss Girvan said: “During this waiting time, there is very limited support offered. There are helplines and self-help materials provided, but these are not comprehensively effective for patients in a mental health crisis in need of medical care.

Diane Hull, chief nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Picture: NSFTDiane Hull, chief nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Picture: NSFT

“The issue is that, over this waiting period, their mental health gets worse so by the time they are contacted by the services, what is being offered to them is no longer relevant.

“From my personal experience, I was on a waiting list for assistance from the Early Help Pathway, but after two-three months of waiting for a meeting with them I got worse and I was then classed as actively suicidal.”

MORE: Mental health workers issue plea to anxiety sufferers as referrals plummet

The trust insists it has a plan to ‘accelerate improvements’ in tackling waiting lists and support for young people.

Diane Hull, NSFT’s chief nurse, told ITV Anglia: “We have made considerable strides in supporting people on the waiting lists because we know it is difficult when you are waiting a long while.

“Staff are concerned about that but they are working so hard to think about all these different ways of supporting young people. We are absolutely committed to doing that.”

This week the trust commissioned website Kooth to provide a new free online counselling service aimed at 11 to 25-year-olds.

Al Bailey, children and young people transformation manager with NSFT, said: “We are really pleased that we are now able to offer this additional resource to help young people across Norfolk and Waveney manage their feelings during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

“Kooth gives them the opportunity to share their feelings confidentially with others or with a qualified counsellor so that they can receive the best support to help them deal with issues or worries.”

• Full details of the film, including upcoming screenings, can be found at whilewewaitfilm.co.uk


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