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Part 1: Youth Perspectives on What Helps and Hinders Mental Health Treatment

This is part 1 of a 4-part blog series about research done at the First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). FEMAP is a program helping older teens and young adults with emotional concerns which fall into the categories of mood and/or anxiety symptoms. They provide a safe and confidential place for youth to get help early, before symptoms begin to disrupt lives. Research at FEMAP is conducted by researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University.

Going through the transition from young teen to adult is a rough time, all the biological and social changes we go through mean this is a stressful and challenging period even for the healthiest of people. For those suffering from mental illness this already challenging time can become even more difficult to navigate. Early intervention and treatment is really important for those of us struggling with mental illness because it has already been found that the sooner someone begins treatment the lesser the long term negative impacts will be. As I have already said, FEMAP is dedicated to providing early help for youth who are suffering from symptoms and they create an individual treatment plan for each person who they look after. FEMAP recently surveyed 283 of their users to find out what about the recovery process had been the most helpful and also the most challenging.

The things that respondents found the most helpful included:

  • Talking/Therapy
  • Medication
  • Support
  • Mental Health Education
  • Psychiatrist
  • A combination of medication and therapy
  • Coping skills
  • Feeling Understood

* It should be noted that some respondents indicated that they had not recovered.

This list is really encouraging to me as it shows that the people who were going to FEMAP for help were clearly coming out of the experience with tools to help themselves and the sense that they had been heard and understood. For many people the idea of going to see a professional when we are struggling is a scary thing but these results show that it has positive results for the majority of people, only a small percentage of people said that they had not yet recovered. Getting professional help can often be stigmatized so seeing results like this is really important as it helps to spread awareness of how positive this process can be.

The things that respondents found the most challenging included:

  • Symptom management
  • Personal Accountability
  • Talking about issues
  • Accessing services
  • Confronting mental health issues
  • Medication
  • Accepting Illness

*It should be noted that some respondents indicated that they did not know or find anything particularly challenging or that they had not felt that they recovered.

All the items mentioned on the most challenging list are important to recognize and there are a couple of interesting things to me. Personal accountability means that people recognized their own ability to affect their illness, the professionals could give them all the tools but it was up to them to use those tools effectively. This is interesting to me because it’s something that we rarely talk about but it is vitally important, no matter how great the support structure around us or the tools we have, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to recovery. Overall it seemed that accepting their illness and then confronting and managing their recovery was the biggest hurdle for most people involved with the study. This information is really important as it helps us to understand the perspective of people getting help which can help the professionals to better support their patients and those considering getting support will know what to expect from the process.

If you want to read the full article it is titled “Youth Perspectives on the Mental Health Treatment Process: What Helps, What Hinders?” by Carolyn Summerhurst, Michael Wammes, Andrew Wrath, and Elizabeth Osuch and was published in the January 2016 issue of The Community Mental Health Journal. Also if you want more information about what FEMAP does check out their website here.