As a local MP I hold regular constituency ‘surgeries’, usually on a Friday when the House of Commons isn’t sitting, where people can meet me to discuss issues of concern.
Some MPs hold these in one regular venue, but in my 250-square mile rural constituency, which doesn’t have one large town at its centre, I prefer to rotate my surgeries around the villages so as to be more convenient for the local community. Sometimes people want to raise a national issue. Other times they have a personal problem and need help sorting it out.
Over the last year, I’ve had a number of young people in my surgeries who wanted to do both. They bravely talked about the mental health problems they had faced, but they also wanted the issue recognised and discussed.
They raised their concerns about the support they had received, and their view that it needed to be improved.
I was deeply impressed by these meetings, and so I’ve decided to organise a local ‘summit’ on teenage mental health.
This will be held at Steyning Grammar School on Friday, November 24. My aim is to call together local organisations and professionals who have a responsibility for identifying and treating teenage mental health issues.
Crucially, an audience of young people – including those who came to my surgeries – will be invited to listen and take part.
A recent report by the Children’s Society estimated that one in ten young people aged between five and 16 have a clinically diagnosed mental health problem. This is around 1,300 children in need of support in my Arundel & South Downs constituency alone.
Mental health issues disproportionately affect young people, with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 18.
Early intervention, and giving young people the confidence to access support, is key to managing their health and preventing problems in adulthood.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has recognised the importance of this issue, and the Government is now prioritising mental health in a way that has never happened before.
I hope that my summit will help to identify the problems but also constructive solutions. I have previously held local summits on autism and on broadband provision and I think they were helpful.
I hope that this event will provide an opportunity for all those with an interest the issue to discuss what can be done to support young people with mental health conditions.
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