I have worked hard recently to address the crisis in youth mental health in West Cumbria; this is a key issue many people have raised with me.
In doing this I have had the full support of my Liberal Democrat colleagues who have strong practical and policy expertise in this field, and who achieved considerable success highlighting mental health issues during the coalition government.
Liberal Democrats continue to campaign for improvements to mental health services, which we believe should be recognised to be as important as physical health matters.
I helped to establish West Cumbria Youth Mental Health Network (WCYMHN), putting schools at the heart of discussions and planning about youth mental health. This has ensured that everyone involved in youth mental health in West Cumbria knows what everyone else is doing and is empowered to build confidently and creatively from improvements being delivered by other organisations. You may have heard how much things have improved recently.
I am delighted that Cumbria’s key health organisations have now rebuilt one of their existing networks so that it functions exactly as WCYMHN has been operating, but with stronger administrative support and long-term security.
When the lockdown is over, members of WCYMHN will be invited to attend this successor network. With most young people currently locked down at home, many parents may be concerned about the volatile and sometimes dark moods of their children in this strange period of their school life.
It is normal for young people to experience volatile emotions. It is important at this time that parents continue to talk with them and to show them how much they love them. Children at home should be encouraged to maintain physical activity, to eat sensibly, to have a basic routine and to work on things that will give them a sense of achievement and which will be useful to them in the future.
Parents themselves need to stay positive when they experience difficulties with their child-care during lockdown. It can be very helpful if parents are honest with their children about how they don’t always feel great themselves, how they have struggled at times to cope, and how that’s normal.
Parents should trust their instincts, and seek advice if they are concerned that their child is in a worse state that this, or if they just want to talk to someone because they are struggling.
There are excellent support services available.
To explore the options which are available, parents are advised to phone Cumbria Barnardos MyTime on 01539 742626.
Rebecca Hanson, Liberal Democrat county councillor and chair of West Cumbria Youth Mental Health Network