Young Adults Need Age Appropriate Mental Health Resources: Here's Why
Sat on a too squishy armchair in a small room in the middle of Croydon, I had never felt so out of place. I was the youngest person in the room by a solid fifteen plus years, and the five other people in the group had only one thing in common with me: we all had a personality disorder.
There is a startling lack of mental health resources in the UK. I say startling: anyone who has ever dealt with a mental health crisis and sought help from the NHS will be only too familiar with the lack of resources, and how stretched to breaking point the resources that are actually available are. But it’s one thing to talk about facts and statistics and numbers. It’s another when you remember that each number represents a real, struggling human who is not getting the help that they need, and the help that they deserve to get better and live an easier life.
Because at the end of the day, living an easier life is all any of us can really ask for.
Living a life without the daily battle with your mind, being able to get out and do the things that you want to do without having to fight yourself, living life without intrusive thoughts and suicidal feelings. It’s really the bare minimum to ask for, but with the NHS stretched the way it is at the moment, it’s often not delivered on.
Talking therapy is one way of trying to put back together the broken pieces, but group support can be invaluable for some people living with some conditions. When I was told that I had Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD/BPD), the bloke (who I had felt up until that point had understood me in a way that no other mental health worker ever had) told me that I had to do three things and then I would be discharged from the service - because who needs continual check ins when you’re living with a chronic mental health condition, right?
The first was research and look at the list of websites I had been given. The second was to refer myself to IAPT and get some talking therapy - at this point I was already seeing someone privately so that was a moot point. I can no longer afford private therapy, but it was a godsend at the time. The third - to refer myself to a support group based here in Croydon. Free to attend, and self-referral only. I knew nothing else about it, other than that it was set up as a space for people with personality disorders.
I can’t seem to find any information about it online, so whether it still exists or not isn’t clear. I made the phone call in the winter months of 2016, and arranged to attend my first group session a week later. I believe it was a Monday afternoon, and I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect, and I had no idea who else would be there or what the format of the group would be.
Well? It was essentially useless, for me.
I was 20 at the time, and what I so desperately needed from a support group was people of similar ages who understood what I was going through, and understood the world that I lived in. This social media age, trying to get and hold down a job, growing up in an internet connected world, coming from the immense pressure of school and college and uni.. All of those kind of things. What I got was a group of five others who were all older than me by a good 20 or more years, and had come from a completely different background and had a completely different life experience.
I had never felt more out of place.
And that’s not to say that people of all different ages and experiences and backgrounds can’t support each other, because they absolutely can. But in those moments I needed people who got it. The support group was absolutely not age appropriate for me. It worked for people who were older. It was set up to support adults. It was not right for me, barely out of my teens and struggling to work out what I wanted from life.
I made it through that first group. I listened to the others experiences, I offered advice when I was called upon, I wrote my crisis plan, I spoke about my history, I drank a weak cup of tea. And then I left.
I never went back.
I didn’t feel comfortable, I didn’t feel welcomed, I didn’t feel listened to or understood. I was at the time trying to find a new job, no-one there understood why I was trying to find a job or believed I would be able to hold steady employment. And many people with mental health difficulties are unable to work and do rely on the welfare state to help them live their lives, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many people with mental health difficulties forge their own paths and work from home, where they feel more comfortable and can control their environment.
But I had worked since I was 16, and I had always thrived in a working environment. I’d left my job at Starbucks before moving to London, and the lack of structure that working gave me was not helping my state of mind.
I would have loved to have been able to attend a support group set up to support older teens and young adults, with support workers who understood this world that we live in and got what we were trying to do. What I didn’t need was to sit in a tiny, decrepit room with a group of people who, although lovely, would never be able to offer me the support I needed at the time, and I would never be able to offer them the support they needed in return. We could certainly sit in that room and listen to each other, but that was about it. And maybe that’s all the support group was ever meant to be. But that’s not support.
More mental health resources are needed in this country and there is an argument to be made that beggars can’t be choosers. Be grateful that you have access to this support group and shut up. But age appropriate resources are just as important, for all people. When you have that team around you who get it, and who understand and can offer the support because they’ve been there too - that shits invaluable.
What are your thoughts? Should we just lump the resources we have and be grateful they’re there, or should we fight for more appropriate resources to be put into place?