How human rights can help us to humanise the mental health system for young people

Our CEO James Kenrick has written a guest blog for the Evidence-Based Nursing journal arguing that a rights-based approach to service design and quality will empower both young people and practitioners to achieve a common cause: the ‘humanisation’ of youth mental health services. Read an extract from the blog below, and join James and other experts for a Twitter chat on the topics covered at 8pm on Wednesday 12th February under the hashtag #ebnjc.


Karim didn’t have an easy time growing up. He was referred to CAMHS at age 16 when he began experiencing strong suicidal thoughts, however before his assessment was scheduled his 17th birthday passed, and he was told he was ineligible for support. When he was finally met by the Adult Community Mental Health Team, he was refused treatment. He persevered in his quest for help, but six assessments later no support was forthcoming. As his symptoms worsened, his family were eventually forced to shell out for expensive private therapy, despite having scant resources to do so.

We are all familiar with such stories of young people failed by a mental healthcare system that sees them only as cases to be filed, rather than individuals with unique needs. And let’s be clear: it’s the system that is to blame for this malaise, not frontline staff. Most nurses and other practitioners in mental health services are working heroically to support their young patients in the face of what must feel like a mountain of systemic challenges: inadequate resources and staffing; political targets with perverse incentives; pressure and bureaucracy heaped on by managers. This system ends up placing more value on clinical expertise and managerial targets than on improving the quality of young people’s experiences through building trust, listening and responding to what matters to them.

Read the rest of the blog on the Evidence-Based Nursing website.