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Same Old... the experiences of young offenders with mental health needs

YoungMinds is delighted to publish the findings of the research into the provision of mental health services for young people and the relationship to offending behaviour in order to contribute to this vital debate.

However, we are not delighted about the findings of this research which are, as the name of our report suggests, that very little has changed in the last 20 years.

Despite the numerous reports, enquiries, policy documents, expert reference groups, working parties, consultations, white papers, Bills, Acts of Parliament and changes of government, we are still repeating the same old story - that the provision of mental health services for young people at risk of or engaged with offending behaviour is woefully inadequate.

This report sits aside from its many predecessors in that it cuts through all the policy and legislation and talks directly to those people who matter the most: the young people and the professionals that work alongside them.

They told us that:
••Waiting lists are too long resulting in young people self-medicating with drugs and alcohol while they wait to access services thus exacerbating their mental ill health and offending behaviour.
••Rigid criteria for mental health services means young people have to be enduring a severe and debilitating mental illness before they can access any type of help or support.
••There is still a gap in service provision between young people’s and adult mental health services meaning many young people are slipping through the net and lacking support at a vulnerable time in their development.
••If a young person manages to receive support, it is largely centred around medication. Following prescription, young people are left lacking medication reviews, support or intervention.
••In the rare occasions where intervention extends beyond medication, professionals have little time for young people and a high turnover of staff means a lack of staff continuity making it difficult for the young person to establish rapport or trust.

In other words, they told us the Same Old...

Alarmingly, the professionals we interviewed described a discriminatory service provision in some areas where professionals saw the crime first and the young person and their mental health needs second. At the same time, professionals working with young people felt their problems could often be predicted meaning young people could undoubtedly benefited from early identification services, had they been offered.