Don’t be fooled by the Britney Spears inspired title of this post (for some reason the song came into my head as soon as I decided to write – it must be the 90s child in me trying to escape!); this is about being a teenager and getting the help within the mental health service that’s needed.
Now I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater and design their service around everybody. There are way too many people with differing needs and they do the best they can; whether or not that’s good enough. But yesterday, I came across a drawing of a dinosaur whilst researching anxiety, and it made me remember how much I struggled as a teenager with the NHS’s services.
When I was fourteen, panic attacks came out of nowhere. I was sat on a plane and lost it, and from then on they came into my life every single day. For no obvious reason. I’d walk into a room and there it was. It was awful and it meant that I was missing a lot of class as I spent the majority of my time down in the school’s medical room with a plastic cup of water trying to calm down – so I went to the doctor and tried to get some help.
As I previously said, I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater to everybody, and I’m also aware that there has to be a cut-off point and a line drawn as to who classifies for one service or another, but as a fourteen/fifteen year old girl was the children’s service the best for me?
I’m not saying I was an adult and I’m not saying that I had the mentality of an adult, but if you think back to being that age I bet you think you did at the time. You don’t want to be patronised, and you don’t want to be spoken to like a child. But that’s how I was treated, because there was no in-between service for teenagers.
The methods used on me in my treatment were not altered in any way considering my age; I was still spoken to in a way that the psychologist could have spoken to a seven-year old. I was still shown cartoons and pictures of dinosaurs (much friendlier and less horrifying than the ones I could find!) and I just remember being sat there in that same room every week thinking ‘why am I here?’.
My panic attacks did eventually go away for a good few years, but I still think they just went by themselves. I grew out of whatever was making me have them at the time and that was that. I didn’t feel less anxious by the services that were provided for me and they didn’t make me determined and positive that I could overcome them, and this was only around seven/eight years ago so I’m sure they haven’t changed much in that time.
So my question to you is simple – are these services good enough for our teenagers and can anything be done about it if they’re not?
If mental illnesses can’t be managed effectively in childhood and as teenagers, the problems manifest into much bigger issues and full blown disorders in adulthood where they’re then harder to treat – so I think it’s incredibly important that healthcare systems are good enough for people of this age. Yes, the issue is in-part surrounding the individual therapists and how they tailor the system to each individual, but the fact remains that regardless of this, teenagers are put into the category of children and so a standard of care surely cannot be met across the board when the pyschologists are only presented with material for a young child. The NHS (at that time anyway), wasn’t necissarily helping teenagers form in to healthy young adults; but instead teenagers were just the in-between that got forgotten about.