Young people in Wales are being failed when they move from child to adult mental health services, Mind Cymru warns

Mental health services are failing young people when they move from child to adult services – and Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.’

Launching their #SortTheSwitch campaign, Mind Cymru has teamed up with young people from across Wales to highlight the biggest problems in switching to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS).

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Often Welsh Government’s own guidance isn’t being followed, which is leaving young people without the support they are entitled to. Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru’s report is the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans added: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

Megan Abbott, 21, from Gorslas (originally Bridgend), was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and insomnia while under SCAMHS. After moving to adult services in March of 2019, Megan had to adapt to the changes within the service as well as diagnostic changes where she was later diagnosed with Autism and Borderline Personality Disorder.

She said: “Although the move from SCAMHS to adult services was smooth in practical terms, it was a big jump for me. I went from having regular one hour appointments with paediatric psychiatry to short 10 minute sessions in adult services.

“I sometimes found my sessions in SCAMHS to be unhelpful but it was still a big jump going from being treated like a child and have these lengthy sessions to going into adult services, where I have 10 minute sessions and leave with a different set of medication most times.

“It’s particularly difficult to go from SCAMHS where the attitude is that young people aren’t old enough to make their own decisions to adult services where we are told we’re responsible for our own mental health & wellbeing.

“There is no support to allow patients to adapt to this change and there’s no warning to the realities of adult services either. Yes at 18 we legally become adults however in realistic terms, we don’t just become adults in ourselves over night. There needs to be a service to provide better care for young adults in order to bridge this gap.

“The lack of support during this transition had a big effect on me, it wasn’t a change that I was expecting. I found it quite difficult and would have benefited from some additional support in being made ready to make the move to adult services.”

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

The report also highlights a series of recommendations for Welsh Government and others to achieve this.

With the help of young people, Mind Cymru will continue to fight for change in this area.