This is a story about a young man called Scott who has experienced a range of challenges whilst preparing to move into adulthood with paid employment, good health and community inclusion.
Scott's story demonstrates that with the right support from health and employment providers young people with mental health needs can manage their health and make a valued contribution to business.
According to a study carried out for the Office for National Statistics in 2004, 10% of children and young people have mental health problems. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. However, the real figure may be higher as many don't access services.
Rates of mental health problems reported among children and young people have risen over the last fifty years. Among teenagers, rates of anxiety and depression have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, and the incidence of reported self-harm has also risen, with one in 15 young people now thought to be affected.
According to statistics from the mental health anti-stigma programme Time to Change, a quarter of young people (26%) have tragically said that the stigma attached to their mental health problems have made them want to give up on life. Furthermore 27% of young people with mental health problems under the age of 25 say that the discrimination they face as a result has also made them give up on their life's ambitions.
Left unresolved, mental health problems significantly affect children and young people's social and educational development. This can have a profound and lasting negative impact into adult life in terms of employment, relationships and independence. During the period of transition from childhood into adulthood, it is critical that services work together to meet the needs of young people with mental health problems to achieve good life outcomes of a job, a home, friends and relationships and community participation.
This case study outlines the story of a young man who demonstrates what can be achieved with the right support as he is now working as a Machine Operator at Atlas Packaging in Barnstaple, and was awarded the Trainee of the Year by the North Devon Manufacturer's Association.
In his early teens, Scott was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and as a result missed about 1 year at school but did have some home schooling. It was about at this time that he had the onset of ill mental health triggered by early childhood experiences. With support from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), his mental health improved for a time.
In his later teen years, his mental health declined and he did not achieve well with his GCSEs. However, he was not deterred and returned to college to do these again and achieved 5 good GCSEs at C and above, and went on to start A levels. In his third year at college, Scott then decided to pursue a vocational education and enrolled on a plumbing course.
Two days before he started his plumbing course, Scott experienced a particularly bad episode of ill mental health which led to him going into a mental health unit. He found the jump back to college really hard and his mental health continued to deteriorate. Scott left college as he was struggling going out and was hiding away a lot. At his worst, he was only leaving the house for one hour a week. However, at the same time, he didn't want to be consigned to a life on benefits and really wanted to get into work so went to Jobcentre Plus for help.
Jobcentre Plus referred Scott to the Work Choice programme with Pluss. Work Choice is an employment programme that supports people with disabilities and long term health issues who face real barriers when it comes to finding and keeping work. Pluss is a social enterprise that supports thousands of people with disabilities and other disadvantages into employment each year. They do this through a range of specialist, local employment services and through direct employment with their own commercial enterprises.
At the same time, Scott received support through the Recovery and Independent Living team from the Devon Partnership NHS Trust. The support he received aided his recovery, promoting social inclusion, self-management and independence.
Within a week of going to Pluss, Scott started a traineeship in their Barnstaple factory. He really like it, and he found it was a good step to help him to socialise with other people and a comfortable place to start working. As his confidence built, he was found a work trial with Atlas Packaging as a Machine Operator on one of their die cutting machines. Scott was very shy and quiet at first, but after the first week, the company recognised Scott's talents and contributions that he could make to their company. As a result, he was appointed as a full-time permanent member of the Atlas team.
Scott works on a die cutter at Atlas Packaging that cuts raw board for packaging. They do custom jobs for different customers, and it usually involves four or five different pieces for each job. There is also paperwork that needs to be filled out as well as checks as to the quality of the product. Scott then signs off each job, loading the product onto pallets and printing labels ready for delivery. There is quite a bit of time management needed for his role, thinking about the next job to get it ready whilst the first is still going. There are four crews that work on the same machine, and Scott particularly enjoys the competitive edge of seeing who can be most productive as it adds a different spin on work.
Scott's biggest challenge was facing his mental health problems and developing good coping strategies. Scott admits that he still has bad days, but the support he received through both the Recovery and Independent Living team and Pluss has ensured that he now has built up the resilience to cope with these.
There has been vast improvement in Scott's mental health. The longer he has been at Atlas, the happier he is to be with people. Scott feels that this is down to the non-judgmental support he received from both the Recovery and Independent Living team and Pluss.
Scott has now built up his social networks through work. He developed a close friendship with a co-worker, and through going out with him he has re-connected with old friends and met new friends as well.
Scott is also a valued employee of Atlas Packaging, and won the Trainee of the Year from the North Devon Manufacturer's Association. Jason Legg, Operations Manager at Atlas says:
Scott has outstanding attendance and performance levels and is a fantastic lad. From when I first met him at Pluss, he was very quiet, to now where he's a happy, chatty guy who comes out for drinks and is one of the team. All Scott needed was a chance and he's turned out to be an excellent employee.
Earning money has made a big difference to Scott as supporting his Mum and sister means a lot to him. He's made a real contribution at home, and he's been able to pay for driving lessons, his driving test and a car.
Going forward, Scott would like to be trained up on more machines and improve on the work he's doing now, and hopes to progress his career with Atlas. Scott says:
My confidence has been built up a lot, I'm not so shy and my anxiety has gone. This is definitely a direct impact of being in work.
Scott's story clearly demonstrates that work is good for young people's health, wellbeing and finances. And in turn, healthy employees are good for business, their families and communities, and for the economy. All it needs is for people to believe that work is possible, and services working together providing non-judgmental support to ensure that people can achieve their life ambitions.