Nadia’s Story

Nadia works at the London School of Economics at the Gender Institute. Nadia recently finished their* Masters there in Gender, Policy and Inequality. Nadia has worked on numerous projects with Mind, Women in Prison and Fearless Futures who educate young girls on gender equality. Nadia had quite a turbulent childhood and witnessed domestic abuse and experienced psychological abuse from childhood to adolescence. They also experienced sexual violence later in their mid and late teens. Nadia believes the government is not doing enough to tackle mental health problems and gender-based violence, and that the government needs to do much more in supporting women’s centres and rape crisis centres. Nadia believes that mental health and sex and relationship education (including education on emotional intelligence and sexual violence) is vital for children and young adults, and thinks that the government must do more to implement adequate education so that we can challenge the stigma associated with mental health, challenge gender roles, and understand and help to prevent gender-based violence.

*Nadia has asked for the pronoun they to be used here as this is a gender neutral pronoun that some gender variant people prefer using.

‘I was born with a neurological disability. My family context was quite violent and I witnessed domestic abuse. In my teens I experienced two very serious instances of sexual violence. In terms of coping mechanisms I learnt a lot about mental health, gender inequality and sexual violence. This helped me understand my mind and society. What is important to me is challenging the stigma which surrounds talking about sexual violence and mental health. From my experiences, it really emphasises how important women centres are and how important rape crisis centres are. They are fundamental to any sort of expert advice on all these things that so many women go through.’

What is the government’s policy towards mental health support for young adults?

Over the past few decades, rates of mental health issues amongst children and young adults have risen. As such, many young people are struggling to find help and support for mental health. In England, people with mental health problems fail to receive the same access and quality of care that people with other illnesses would receive. Rarely has mental health been seen as equal to physical health in the UK.

While the government works towards putting mental health on the agenda, funding towards mental health services seems to be decreasing. The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 created a new strategy for the NHS and other mental health services to increase their standard of delivery and provide early support for mental health problems. However, mental health services have always been underfunded and cuts to the sector keep increasing, especially funding for children and young adults. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is one of the main services that offers mental health assessment and treatments for children and young people. However recent cuts to the CAMHS have made it difficult for children and young adults to seek the help they require. In addition, mental health services only consumes roughly 11% of the NHS budget, while mental health illnesses account for 23% of the burden of disease in the UK. Without adequate and sustainable funding, less people are able to get the support they need.

What is the government’s policy towards sex and relationship education for young adults?

Sex and relationship education (SRE) is vital for child and young adults to increase their knowledge on sex and healthy relationships. It is imperative for schools to address these topics to ensure that children and young adults learn about the emotional, social, and physical aspects of growing up, relationships, sex, human sexuality, and sexual health. Sex and relationship and mental health education all come under the study of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. However, the government have not yet made standardised and comprehensive sex and relationships education compulsory in all UK schools. While the government has allowed schools to maintain flexibility over teaching above the national curriculum, education on mental health is still minimal in schools.

What is the government’s policy towards sexual violence?

Figures from 2012 to 2013 show that in the UK an estimated 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse, and over 330,000 women were sexually assaulted. Support for victims to rebuild their lives is vital. This often includes counselling and mental health services. While the government focuses on preventing sexual violence, they should also increase efforts to support victims.

What is the issue with mental health policy?

Poor mental health is a serious problem and its severity is often undermined. Untreated mental health can turn into a lifelong illness therefore treating mental health problems and mental health education is vital from a young age. 10% of children and young people aged 5-16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. In addition, 75% of mental illnesses in adult life begin before the age of 18. Cuts in mental health services are affecting children and young adults. It is vital for the government to improve efforts and funding for tackling mental health illnesses and provide support for those most vulnerable. The earlier that young people receive help to address their mental health issues, the less likely they are to suffer serious consequences in the future.

What is the issue with the lack of mental health education?

Many children and young adults fear the stigma associated with having a mental health problem. The stigma is associated directly with a low level of knowledge of mental health. Increased education on mental health within schools increases the awareness of mental illnesses. Therefore with increased education on mental illnesses, children are more likely to understand the problems with mental illnesses better, they will become less afraid of the stigma, and individuals will also be less afraid to seek help.

What is the issue with cuts to women’s services?

Women’s services and organisations provide great efforts in supporting victims of violence. Many women rely on these services to rebuild their lives. With cuts to women’s services, less people are able to seek the help they need as a lack of funding means that women’s organizations are left with a limited capacity to help victims. Women’s services not only support these women, they also do work on campaigning for victims of sexual violence, create awareness and tackle the stigma surrounding survivors of sexual violence and rape. Their work is vital.

The government should stop cutting the funding to this sector so that women’s services do not have to turn women that need help away. The government should also collaborate with these specialist services to create a national strategy to end violence against women. It must be noted that smaller specialist women’s organisations, like those for BME women with specific language or disability needs for example, are suffering disproportionately under funding cuts.