Page last updated at 05:58 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 06:58 UK

Rural mental health aid 'lacking'

Depressed girl
The study found a lack of mental health promotion in schools and work

Research into the provision of mental health services for young people in rural Wales has found access barriers and a lack of information about them.

Some in Gwynedd, Powys and Ceredigion claimed the media and professionals in different agencies also fostered negative attitudes.

One recommendation made by the report includes the introduction of a national mental health awareness programme.

The study's findings was discussed at a conference in Aberystwyth.

Mind Cymru was commissioned to conduct the study by the Big Lottery Fund as part of its More Than A Number campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues in Wales.

The study aimed to identify the barriers experienced by 18-40-year-olds and looked at the potential for encouraging community health organisations to support the mental health and well-being of young patients.

The research was conducted between July and September 2007 and found a lack of mental health promotion at all levels including schools, employers, further education and GP practices.

I have experienced stigma through intolerance and ignorance and in rural Wales there is a lack of information about what services are out there
Research participant

As part of the study respondents also identified some of the barriers to accessing mental health services.

Stigma caused the most concern and a lack of correct information about mental distress was highlighted as a significant factor.

The research found there was a reluctance to go to the GP for support particularly in smaller communities.

One respondent was concerned they knew medical centre staff and were fearful of news travelling around their village through gossip.

Some respondents indicated that families are often reluctant to accept that a family member was suffering from mental distress, further compounding the problems of sufferers.

Some of the other barriers cited included short term funding for local voluntary sector mental health projects, poor communication between the agencies that have a role in providing support and the isolation that often results from living in a rural area.

This isolation is compounded by poor local transport links, and it was indicated that mental health promotion and education should begin in schools.

Highlighting the barriers faced on a day-to-day basis, one young person who participated in the research, said: "Mental distress is something that is going to be present for my entire life.

'Intolerance and ignorance'

"I have experienced stigma through intolerance and ignorance and in rural Wales there is a lack of information about what services are out there - you have to go looking for it.

"The area is not good for mental health services as there are limited choices because of limited resources and so many needing them.

"Young people's problems are not seen as serious as adults with family stresses. Young people do not acknowledge they have a problem - they don't realise it!

"There is not enough mental health awareness in schools. I didn't know I had depression until I left school. Most of the time you can feel like you are suffering on your own."

The six recommendations made by the report included a review of advocacy arrangements for young people and following up on those organisations which wanted to become involved in mental health work.

Ruth Coombs of Mind Cymru said one of the most promising findings of the research was that 95% of the non mental health organisations consulted wanted to become more involved in well being in rural Wales.

"This confirms our position that mental health and well being is everybody's business," she said.

Barbara Wilding from the Big Lottery Fund said she hoped the research would promote discussion about mental health provision for young people in rural Wales.

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