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Did you know that 1 in 5 adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year?

Now, the majority of specialist nurses say mental health care for young people isn’t good enough, according to a poll carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Mental health care nurses say they’re worried that the rationing of access to care and shortage of beds are so bad that young people risk harming, or even killing themselves.

“This vital service has been totally underfunded for years. The pressure on the service is not only appalling for children, young people and their families, but staff morale and mental health too,” one nurse said.

Fiona Smith, the RCN’s professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, said the survey showed that services for seriously troubled young people are “completely overstretched” in the face of growing demand for care.

“These results tell us that things are seriously poor. Mental health nurses working in children’s services tell me that they have never known it so bad,” she said.

8 out of 10 nurses think problems in CAMHS are making the suffering of young people with mental health problems worse.

Fiona Smith added: “We are failing young people with mental health problems by not providing services and interventions in a timely manner. It’s foolish of the NHS and the government not to really focus on meeting these young people’s needs, because we know that with [the] three out of four adults with mental health problems, their symptoms began in childhood.”

Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. The number of children and young people turning up in A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009 and, in the past three years, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have also almost doubled.

In a 2016 survey for Parent Zone, 93 per cent of teachers reported seeing increased rates of mental illness among children and teenagers and 90 per cent thought the issues were getting more severe.

Do we need a radical rethink on mental health?

Prof Ed Bullmore, the head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: “I think we have to be quite radical,” and talks how the immune system could be causing depression.

He said: “Depression and inflammation often go hand in hand, if you have flu, the immune system reacts to that, you become inflamed and very often people find that their mood changes too.”

“Their behaviour changes, they may become less sociable, more sleepy, more withdrawn.”

“They may begin to have some of the negative ways of thinking that are characteristic of depression and all of that follows an infection.”

This subtle, yet significant shift in scientific thinking ties in with a philosophy I’ve personally held for a number of years now.

Wether you know it or not, your physical and mental health are intrinsically linked.

Many people treat body and mind as two separate things, but to experience true wellness they must be treated as one. No matter how much you focus on your physical body, you can never be truly well until you also experience peace of mind and if you are stressed by trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, then your lifestyle is not healthy!

Just as symptoms of physical disease can be the result of the immune system’s response to danger, scientists now believe mental illness may be the same.

About 1 in 3 depressed patients has consistently high levels of inflammation, a hugely complicated process to prepare our body to fight off hostile forces.

If inflammation is too low then an infection can get out of hand. If it is too high, it causes damage.

Evidence suggests inflammation may actually be the cause of depression, with the immune system altering the workings of the brain.

Professor Carmine Pariante of King’s College London told the BBC: “Nearly 30% to 40% of depressed patients have high levels of inflammation and in these people we think it is part of the causal process.”

“The evidence supporting this idea is that high levels of inflammation are present even if someone is not depressed, but is at risk of becoming depressed.”

As always, I believe that prevention is better than cure. Perhaps it is time for the government to shift its thinking on mental health and increase health education on how to minimise the risk of mental illness through improvements in attitude, intake and movement.

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