Recently Kirsten and Emma spoke to some young people who have spent time in an inpatient mental health unit to talk about their experiences while in hospital, the issues that young people face that effect mental health, and the ways they could be involved to improve mental health services.

A key concern that was discussed was the lack of properly trained mental health staff and the impact that has on the running of the unit. All the participants felt that those nurses who didn’t have mental health training found it more difficult to de-escalate situations when someone was distressed. This causes more aggression and participants felt that other patients are then needed to help calm people down. The incidents of seclusion that were discussed were attributed in part to having non-trained staff working on the unit. They were all really positive about those staff that are trained in mental health, saying that every patient loves them.

Having a purpose built environment was discussed as being a positive aspect of other units and would really help this particular unit and the experience while in hospital.

Yeah, because it always feels so closed, so most of the time you have our bedroom to walk around in, the hallway, and the common room or games room, normally not both. And it can be very hard to get a bit of personal space, especially if you’re sharing a room, just to spend some time alone, because the nurses may not let you out in the courtyard. And a lot of the time, because nurses are off doing other things, there’s only one or two nurses on the floor, you sort of all get herded in to this one room ‘cause that’s all they can supervise, but that means you’re really trapped and closed in and it gets suffocating.

Outside of the hospital experience, something that was felt by all participants as having an effect on mental health is cyber-bullying and the pressures to act a certain way or look a certain way. This is because it is much easier to say things online you may not say face-to-face and it is easier for lots of people to gang up on one person.

The pressure at school was also identified as something that affects young people’s mental health. There was general agreement that there is a lot of work involved, and it begins to take over people’s lives. When responsibilities and pressures at home also become involved, stress increases and it has a negative affect mentally and physically.

I have a big problem with keeping up with the work all the time, because we get so much work to do in a such little amount of time that it often takes over your life, and you can’t do much else, and you become stressed and it affects you mentally and physically, and it’s tiring.

Young people want to be involved in service planning and we talked about being able to have meetings and consultations where people can voice their opinions and let services know what they think the services are doing wrong and what they are doing right.

It was great to be able to get feedback, and we plan to use this information when we talk to services about how to provide a better experience for adolescents who have to be admitted into mental health units.