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Charity slams lack of mental health support for young people with cancer

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teenage cancer patient A third of young cancer cannot access the mental health support they desperately need

Young people with cancer are finding it increasingly difficult to accesss mental health services, leaving at them at risk of lifelong trauma, according to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Its new report, Not OK: Filling the gaps in mental health support for young people with cancer, reveals a patchy national picture for support for young people at a psychologically vulnerable time.

’Young people tell us that psychological support is as important as the treatment for cancer itself,’ said Dr Louise Soanes, Chief Nurse, Teenage Cancer Trust. ‘Yet over a third of young cancer patients we spoke to had no, or reduced access to specialist psychological support in the six months prior. This isn’t good enough.’

The report’s findings include

  • More than half (52%) of respondents said their mental health and wellbeing had been very poor (17%) or poor (35%).
  • 57% felt they had needed to see a psychologist in the six months prior to being surveyed but 35% either had not (20%) or had reduced access (15%).
  • 70% said that fewer opportunities to speak to other young people with cancer had had an impact on their wellbeing.
  • 31% said a Clinical Nurse Specialist provided them with the most psychological/ emotional support (compared to 23% who said a psychologist had) since diagnosis.

The report also
reveal the frustrations of clinicians who say they are ‘firefighting’. Almost 90% of psychologists surveyed think current national provision for specialist psychological support for teenagers and young adults with cancer is insufficient .The Trust warned that young cancer patients could face depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions well into their adult lives unless the Government improves funding for high quality support from psychologists for teenagers and young adults with cancer from the point of diagnosis.

“Tailored and comprehensive support to deal with the impact of cancer is vital because without it, there’s a risk young people’s mental health trauma will outlive their cancer diagnosis,’ said Dr Soanes.

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