How can nurses support young people with mental health problems?

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11th Feb 2020 Nursing and Healthcare Question Reference this

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How can nurses support young people with mental health problems to help avoid a ‘tsunami’ of adults with mental illness in the future?


A recent article warns of a ‘tsunami’ of adult mental health illness if ‘baby boomers’ fail to address the mental health needs of young people (Doward, 2016). The author based the report upon statements from Professor Dame Sue Bailey, chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition. Professor Bailey strongly advises the government to invest heavily in children’s mental health services now, causing current lack of funding a “car crash waiting to happen” (Doward, 2016:11). The incidence of anxiety and distress, post-traumatic stress disorder and hospital admissions due to self-harm in young adults have all increased according to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (Natcen Social Research & University of Leicester, 2014), which identified unresolved and untreated mental health problems in childhood as probable causes.
Increasing numbers of young people and children are suffering from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, self-harming, hyperkinetic and conduct disorders (Membride, et al., 2015). This could be managed by the extension of current effective nurses led initiatives, if the government funding requested by Professor Bailey is forthcoming. The Family Nurse Partnership, introduced in 2007 (Department of Health (DH), 2011), is an excellent example, which, through nurse-led evidence based interventions has provided long term benefits for young mothers and reduced mental health and behavioural problems in their children (NICE, 2012). Research on similar programmes in the United States (Kitzman et al., 2010), supports these findings.
Another example is Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CHAMS), providing multidisciplinary, inter-agency support to children requiring more specialist interventions. Nurse referral, particularly from those who are in daily contact with children (such as school nurses) is an important means of access to CHAMS, which provides evidence based interventions ranging from health promotion to specialist in- and out- patient facilities. The Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health (2013) support interagency initiatives such as this, in which nurses play central role in coordinating care between social and health professionals in order to facilitate its delivery.


Department of Health, 2011. The Family-Nurse Partnership programme in England: Wave 1 implementation in toddlerhood & a comparison between waves 1 and 2a of implementation in pregnancy and infancy. Birbeck University of London, London.

Doward, J. 2016. Ignoring child mental health ‘risks tsunami of adult illness’- professor urges baby boomers to address the needs of the younger generation’. The Observer, 2nd October 2016, p11.

Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health, 2013 Guidance for commissioners of child and adolescent mental health services. Raffertys, London.

Kitzman H.J, Olds D.L, Cole R.E., 2010., Enduring effects of prenatal and infancy home visiting on children: follow-up of randomised trial among children at age 12. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 161(5): 412-8.

Membride H, McFadyen J, Atkinson J., 2015 The challenge of meeting children’s mental health needs. British Journal of School Nursing 10(1): 19-25

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2012) Social and Emotional Wellbeing: Early Years. NICE, London

Natcen Social Research and University of Leicester, (2014) The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 [online] available at accessed 8th October 2016

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