The mental health crisis and the youth’s need for social prescribing

In the week of Children’s Mental Health and a newly appointed Youth Mental Health Ambassador, we discuss why the social prescribing conversation must continue. 

Since A&E doctor, Dr Alex George, lost his 19-year-old brother to poor mental health, he has been campaigning even louder for children’s mental health ever since. So much so, he caught the attention of No.10 and has now been appointed as Youth Mental Health Ambassador.

 

Dr Alex said:

"The last year has been unimaginably difficult for all of us, but particularly for young people who have sacrificed so much.

"I am honoured to be appointed for this role where I’ll be working closely with government to make mental health an absolute priority and hope to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and their education for good."

As Dr Alex notes, young people have suffered immensely this year. And he’s right. 

A follow-up report of the Mental Health and Young People Survey has confirmed this. In 2020, one in six children aged 5 to 16 years-old were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine in 2017.

A recent UK survey led by charity stem4 has also noted that 73% of teachers warn that mental health provision in schools and colleges across the UK is nearing collapse.

Once the world returns to ‘normal’ we have a huge duty to take better care of the youth. And we believe that includes greater access to social prescribing. 

What is social prescribing?

Social prescribing is a person-centred approach where people are referred to non-clinical sources of support or resources in the community. 

These referrals are often made by GPs, nurses, link workers, councillors, and healthcare professionals, following an in-depth discussion with the patient about their needs. In some instances, patients are also able to refer themselves.

The support and resources can come in the form of social activities, volunteering, arts and crafts, specialist interest groups, advice, green space, learning and sports clubs. 

Why do children and young adults need social prescribing?

Whilst social prescribing cannot replace traditional talking therapies and medication, there is most definitely a place for it in improving the health and wellbeing of a child.

For the past year, children have had a lack of routine, been more isolated than ever, received a compromised level of education, and fewer opportunities to improve their interpersonal skills. 

Social prescribing activities can be specifically catered towards building confidence, resilience and social skills as well as encouraging exercise and mindfulness. 

The aim of social prescribing is to improve the health and wellbeing of an individual using local community solutions. For example, joining a football club can help to tackle social isolation.

Social prescribing can also offer an improved sense of belonging by joining such groups too.

Not only can social prescribing help an individual but it can ease pressure from the NHS. According to an evidence review led by the University of Westminster, an average of 28% fewer GP consultations and 24% fewer attendances at A&E in instances where the social prescribing connector service was working well.

How can Priority Digital Health help?

As members of The Social Prescribing Network, we are fully aware of the importance of social prescribing, as well as the role that Link Workers carry out in particular. And if you’re looking for a platform to support your social prescribing efforts, we can do exactly that.

Our fully interoperable Priority Platform connects patients with a range of local, non-clinical interventions through nationally-accredited, holistic assessments online.

We’re confident when we say there is no loose end. Link Workers, Healthcare Professionals and third sector organisations can all refer people to services through the Priority Platform.

We also have a number of partnerships that can provide necessary Link Workers, Advisors and Counsellors, who carry out the vital role of listening to the individual’s needs before conducting a referral.

Our proprietary system also seamlessly integrates with a range of targeted self-care and behaviour change apps, tools and resources – empowering patient self-management.

It is the only digital system which responds – in real-time – to the needs of your community.

We most definitely have the technology, the knowledge and the heart to help ease this mental health crisis, but we must act with urgency.