COMMENT: Get to the source of the mental health problem and do more for bereaved youth

My mum died when I was 17.

This sharp shock of sudden loss sent me into a mental health spiral and I had no professional bereavement support.

I dropped out of college and went off the rails, drinking and partying with friends most nights with zero motivation to  make something of myself like I knew my mum would have wanted.

Trapped in a vicious cycle I eventually learned how to cope on my own, but some people can’t. They’re still stuck in that dark place.

A parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK – around 23,600 a year according to Child Bereavement UK. This equates to around 111 children being bereaved of a parent every day.

If not dealt with early enough and left to fester these emotional scars can stay with you into adulthood.

Studies of adults who have lost a parent at a young age show that they are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, and use poor and damaging coping strategies like self-blame, emotional eating and even self-medication.

I won’t mince my words here – the Government should be doing so much more to help young people impacted by parental loss.

Last year Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “Mental health is just as important as physical health, yet when it comes to government spending it remains the poor relation. It beggars belief that the government has not reversed cuts to public health spending, which is so vital for preventing mental health problems.”

I couldn’t agree more, the lack of money being put into mental health services makes people rely on the already stretched third-sector.

The NHS webpage for childhood or young adult bereavement recommends making a memory box or reaching out to third-sector charities and organisations for help in situations where there has been a loss. 

While a memory box may help some, for many this won’t cut it and with mental health charities waiting lists as long as they are, the cycle is bound to continue for future bereaved youth. 

Related Articles