THE problem facing those trying to deal with mental health is vast, according to a Dunfermline counsellor.

Rachel Eastop has been helping young people in West Fife since 2005 and is now managing director of the Wellbeing Academy, based in Douglas Street.

Through her previous organisation, Headroom, she helped youngsters across the area.

“We lost funding but the thing that came about is when you work with teenagers, you become really aware that once they turn 18, any support services that were out there for them just fall away,” she explained.

“We expect our young people who are still teenagers to be adults and for boys in particular, they are not ready. Fife College approached us asking if we could provide counselling there.

“Over the five college years, they said they could identify about 600 people who may be needing help.

“Suddenly, you are an adult but not a lot changes apart from any support service you may have had, which might have. If you are someone in care, or someone who has been bullied, if you have had a number of Adverse Childhood Experiences, then your emotional ability will be much younger.

“Your resilience is lower and you then have to go out into the big wide world. You are suddenly someone who is meant to cope and get on with it.”

Last week, the Press launched our new campaign, We Need To Talk, which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues after the tragedies that have affected our area in recent weeks.

We aim to raise awareness of mental health, combat its stigma and support agencies and charities trying to help those in crisis.

Rachel said many of the issues which young West Fifers were having to deal with was down to resources.

“It is down to money, resources, skill – all of which are in short supply but the problem is vast. Anxiety is by far the greatest reason people are referred to me. A lack of resilience is contributing to anxiety.

“There are a number of reasons why people are anxious. Some can span from quite low things – things that form the ebb of life to social media and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

“We have known about ACEs and it has been linked to physical health. Children who have had severe ACEs means their body is filled with toxic stress all the time. Toxic stress is something say like when you meet a bear, it is danger, danger.

“These are things triggered by fear – the kind of fear that releases toxic stress should be short-term and should be rare but children who live with domestic violence, parents with drug and alcohol problems, even parental separation, all these kinds of things, they contribute to this toxic stress that is around 24/7 and children grow up to be adults who have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure. It is all about early intervention.

“It doesn’t help when, for example, an organisation such as Headroom, a charity that every three years has to fight alongside other charities for the same pool of funds, are asked to think of something new and exciting.

“We had NHS funding and that dried up, we had funding from Fife Council education and that dried up really quickly. We were operating in five high schools in Dunfermline and West Fife for 10 years then suddenly had to pull out. These things do not help. You can only ask people who are quite highly skilled to do it for free for so long.

“I personally think alongside dentistry, getting ears checked, getting your eyes checked, we should have fee mental health provision. The NHS would tell you they there is that in the form of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) but that is cracking at the seams. It is barbaric, if we really stopped and thought of it – expecting children to wait to get any kind of help. I say to people when an adult goes to the GP and lists off their symptoms, they will, one, prescribe them with anti-depressants and, two, sign them off work. But children don’t get that. They quite rightly shouldn’t get the medication but we would not expect an adult to go to work so why do we expect children to go to school? Sometimes school is the problem. I feel we are getting a lot wrong.”

Rachel said generational changes in how young men are spending their time is also affecting mental health. Many are staying inside playing consoles when they could be better getting active.

“It is about finding outlets – some of it has to be physical things. Boys need to do stuff. Boys need to get out with a stick and whack it against a tree, find a way of making a gun out of sticks, boys are physical.

“Sport is too competitive. Yes there should be a winner and a loser but why does there always have to be a competitive game? Why can you not just go and play, make the rules up. If a boy plays football, he has to trial for a team then he has to turn up and it is just for a game. Swimming is the same.”

The rise of sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instragram is also something which Rachel says is not helping people who have mental health issues.

“With social media, I think the problem is people seem to lose their filter – adults as well as young people. It is frightening how horrific people can be and there is no comeback.

“We are human beings and we need feedback from other people. It is how we learn that we have overstepped the boundary. We see in the other person’s face the horror and the reaction and being upset and being hurt. We don’t get this feedback with social media.”