Did you know that mental health is a human right?
“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”UN General Assembly (1966), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Mental health is a human right. This right, written into international law and encoded in the first principles of the NHS, says that every one of us is entitled to the best possible standard of mental, as well as physical, healthcare.
Make Our Rights Reality is a movement of young people, co-ordinated by the charity Youth Access, trained in our human rights and how to stand up for them. Along with young people from across the UK participating in the Our Minds Our Future project, we’re campaigning for our mental health rights in England to be respected.
All over the country, Rights Advocates* are calling on decision-makers to promise to put our rights at the centre of plans for mental health services. Many of us have lived experience of mental health concerns and the current mental health system. This manifesto sets out our campaign’s vision for a mental health service that meets our needs.
We envision a mental health system that never turns us away for being “too ill” or “not sick enough” to access services. Early intervention should be a priority. We need mental health professionals to involve us in decisions about our care at every stage.
We feel that we should be treated as individuals and offered support that reflects the contextual factors which affect our mental health. These factors include financial concerns, bullying, peer pressure, racism, educational struggles, identity, sexuality, relationships, social media, social pressures and body image.
We are all different, therefore we need a mental health system that is as diverse as we are, with professionals who understand the specific barriers faced by a wide range of groups. A key part of achieving that is recruiting professionals from diverse backgrounds who can support us through shared experience.
We see this manifesto as an evolution of our previous five demands, developed through feedback from fellow young people and the changing context of the world around us. Whilst developing this manifesto we made sure to respond to recent worldwide events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the cases of injustice and discrimination which have sparked global protests, as these and other current events have affected young people’s mental health significantly.
Read on to hear our demands and find out how you can help.
At the end of March 2020, there were 237,088 people in contact with children and young people’s mental health services.
Experts Who Understand
Mental health professionals need to cross generational gaps where such gaps exist, and have knowledge and understanding of the unique issues facing us in today’s world.
- We should feel understood and accepted while accessing services, and confident that we can share our experiences without judgement.
- Schemes should be put in place to encourage those with lived experience to become mental health professionals.
- Mental health professionals should be aware of contextual factors which affect mental health, notably the social determinants of mental health, the relationship between social media and mental health and the intersection between mental health and other issues affecting young people.
Services Made For Us
Mental health services should cater to our needs.
- We should have access to online and offline services to help those of us who may be nervous when accessing in-person services or unable to attend for any reason.
- We need dedicated mental health professionals in educational settings, who can offer confidential support or signpost us to other services.
- More informal types of mental health support should be available to young people, including drop-in sessions, text-based services and youth clubs.
Reaching out to support that’s branded as being for ‘mental health’ can be off-putting, whereas community services can be more accessible and useful for some young people.
We Have a Right To:
Services Made With Us
Young people should have a seat at the table and be part of decisions being made about our own mental health care and the wider system.
- Service providers should be open and transparent about our options, offering us a variety of services in terms of frequency, length and type of service.
- Support and medication should not be suddenly stopped or changed without our input or knowledge.
- We need to be part of the process when deciding where funding goes in our communities in relation to mental health.
- We want you to come to us for feedback that should be implemented by decision-makers, commissioners and funders so that services reflect our needs.
“Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women compared with men, even when they have similar scores on standardized measures of depression or present with identical symptoms.”World Health Organization (WHO). Gender and women’s mental health
Equity, Diversity & Accessibility
Mental health services should cater for everyone regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, social and/or economic background.
Image source: MPCA photos via Flickr, Creative Commons license
- Diversify the mental health workforce to reflect how diverse we are as young people.
- It is our human right to have access to mental health support that meets and respects our specific needs, for example in relation to our culture, gender, ability and age.
- Communication should be available in different formats (eg interpreters, sign language, braille, dyslexia friendly documents, etc) so that services are accessible to everyone.
- Language used in mental health services should be clear and free of medical jargon so that we as non-professionals are not excluded.
- Services should be physically accessible, both geographically (ie accessible by foot or well-connected, affordable public transport that can reach the service within a reasonable timescale for the young person) and for people with different physical needs.
- Mental healthcare should not only take place in a medical setting since this can be stigmatising for some of us.
“According to 2014 statistics, women are more likely than men to receive treatment for all mental health conditions, with 15% of women receiving treatment compared to 9% of men.”Knapp, M. et al. (2011). Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention: The Economic Case
In a 2014 survey for NHS Digital,White British people were most likely to report receiving mental health treatment (14.5%) compared to minority ethnic groups (7%). Black adults were the least likely to be receiving treatment (6.5%).S. McManus et al (eds.) (2014). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014
“I was diagnosed with anorexia, but because I was still a ‘healthy’ weight, I couldn’t access support… In the end I was forced to pay for private treatment. I spent thousands of pounds of my own money and travelled hundreds of miles because what I needed just wasn’t available where I live.”A, 21 years old
Help When We Need It
A diverse range of services will help us to access them when we need them and avoid long waiting lists.
- There should be no barriers to accessing specialists and getting mental health support when we say we need help. We shouldn’t be deemed “not sick enough” or “too ill” to access services, and so left without any care.
- We need transitional services so that we are never left without support as we get older.
- Out-of-hours services should be available to help us when in a mental health crisis outside of normal working hours.
“Only 10% of GPs agreed that they usually felt confident that a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) would result in treatment.”YoungMinds (2019). Lack of early support for young people’ mental health puts pressure on GPs – new survey
“Feeling helpless, I have resorted to taking multiple overdoses, or self-harming and despite seeing a psychiatrist at the emergency department, I have been told I am not sick enough and have been sent home with no further support, only to return the next day out of desperation.”A, 23 years old, East of England
Education & Training for All
Mental health education should be available to us. Any professionals working with young people should be trained in mental health issues.
- Young people should receive education about our mental health, so that we know how to take care of our mental health and wellbeing, where to go to get help and how we can support ourselves and our peers.
- It should be compulsory for anyone who works with us, including all healthcare professionals, to have comprehensive & up-to-date mental health training tailored to their role, so they are equipped to prevent and cope with mental health crises in young people.
- Mental health professionals need to receive education on the issues we face as young people, and in particular what young people from minorities face.
- There should be education within and outside of educational settings about mental health, to help eliminate social stigmas and increase understanding from professionals, family and friends.
The annual savings from early diagnosis of psychoses over 6–10 years is estimated at approximately £14 million to £68 million.Knapp, M. McDaid, D. & Parsonage, M. (Eds.) (2011). Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention: The economic case
A ‘Whole Life Approach’ to Mental Health
Mental health doesn’t stop when you step out of the counsellor’s office, and neither should mental health support.
- We should all be treated as individuals in need of tailored support, even if some of us may share the same diagnosis.
- Our support should extend beyond mental healthcare services into our everyday life to reflect the intersection between our mental health needs and the economic, social and cultural factors which affect young people’s lives.
- Stronger links should be made between mental health services and GP practices, youth services and other community-based organisations which support young people, to ensure no one falls through the gaps or gets left behind.
“CAMHS refused to support me with my mental health and immediately diagnosed me with autism. I feel the lack of attention to my personal needs and situation led me to getting inappropriate help… A year later I was referred to the Adult Mental Health Services but again, I found they didn’t listen to what type of support I had wanted.”J, 22 years old, London
75% of people may not get the mental health support they need.Fundamental Facts of Mental Health, p. 66-71
We Want You:
To join us!
If you want to join the campaign or help us in our fight for a better mental health system, there are a few things you can do:
- Share this manifesto!
- Sign up as a supporter of the campaign using the form at the bottom of this page. We’ll be in touch with updates on the campaign and opportunities to get involved.
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter to learn more about the campaign.
- Get in touch. If you want to discuss how we can work together to build a mental health system that respects our human rights, email us at email@example.com