Wednesday 30th May 2018
Every day, around seven young people aged 13 to 24 are diagnosed with cancer around the UK. Here at Teenage Cancer Trust, we know that the overwhelming majority of teenagers and young adults with cancer can suffer from mental health issues as a direct result of having cancer. The Government is currently consulting on policy proposals in the 'Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision' Green Paper. However, most young people with cancer will be overlooked by the Government's proposed interventions.
Once again, young people with cancer are the forgotten tribe, left in the dark when they need help the most.
Channel 4 News has worked with Teenage Cancer Trust to produce a special report shining a light on the lack of mental health support available for young people with cancer, to be broadcast during the evening news on 30th May 2018. Presenter Victoria Macdonald interviewed Ellie and Billy, two young people we supported through the impact that cancer can have on your mental health, as well as our CEO, Kate Collins.
Ellie was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma when she was 14 and was treated at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. Now 16, Ellie told us that 'when you are at a low ebb, you are susceptible to think bad thoughts and anxiety'.
Mental health problems can be very draining and it's hard to have that extra burden when you are already poorly. More definitely needs to be done to help young people after their diagnosis.
Billy also struggled with his mental health after he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma when he was 18, and he is a 'firm believer that further efforts need to be put in place to provide mental health support for young people with cancer'.
I feel that the current approaches available are not thorough enough to get understanding of an individual's honest experiences.
Billy and Ellie both had support from Teenage Cancer Trust to help them cope with their mental health throughout their treatment. However, our research shows that only half of young people with cancer have received access to psychological support or a counsellor.
Cancer is devastating at any age, but couple it with being a teenager and you hit rock bottom.
By focusing on proposals to support young people in schools and colleges, the Government's proposed interventions will miss young people with cancer who are largely not in education when they are undergoing lengthy treatment. The proposed plans by the Government not only leave young people with cancer behind but more widely do not provide specific improvements in mental health support for young adults with any type of long-term physical illness that requires lengthy stays in hospital.
It is important that mental health provision is in place throughout young people's cancer journeys, which is something that the current proposals do not consider. We're grateful to Channel 4 News for helping us raise awareness around the lack of mental health support for young people with cancer.