Our young people are struggling with their mental health. Do we know why?
Plus: A former sub-postmistress from Telford speaks out about the Post Office scandal
Dear readers — welcome to your first Monday Briefing of the year, which delves into the tricky issue of young people’s mental health and also recommends some great reads and things to do.
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Our weekend read by the brilliant Daniel Timms looked at the “golden logistics triangle”. This seemingly innocuous patch of land in South Staffordshire has been developed especially to serve the transportation and storage sector, a fast-growing industry driven by the country’s vast demand for online shopping.
A reader shared the piece in a Facebook group called Stop the West Midlands Interchange (WMI) — a new freight rail infrastructure being built in the triangle. As it happens many people, some of whose families have lived on the land for generations, are unhappy with the surrounding development. If you’d like to chat to us about this, please get in touch with me here for a potential follow up on the human dimension.
☀️ Tuesday: Sunny with a moderate breeze. Max 4°C.
⛅ Wednesday: Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze. Max 6°C.
⛅ Thursday: Light cloud and a gentle breeze. Max 7°C.
☁️ Friday: Thick cloud and light winds. Max 8°C.
🍃 Weekend: Light cloud and light winds. Max 6°C.
The big story: Our young people are struggling with their mental health. Do we know why?
Top line: A tenth of Birmingham’s youth is struggling with their mental health — but the services intended to help them are struggling too. Tomorrow, all city councillors will discuss the worrying results of an inquiry into mental health provision for children and young people.
Young but not carefree: Demographically speaking, we’re a relatively youthful city — in 2018, just under a fifth of residents were aged five to 18. However, we also have a higher-than-average number of young people suffering from mental health problems.
Data from the Birmingham Children and Young People Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2019 estimates 10.3% of Birmingham’s five to 16-year-olds had at least one mental health disorder.
This compares to a national average of 9.2% and a West Midlands average of 9.7%.
Zoom out: Across the UK, the task of caring for young people’s mental health has become increasingly difficult in recent years. In 2022, The Health Foundation’s Networked Data Lab reported that GPs were spending far more of their time prescribing and treating mentally unwell young people. In particular, a growing number of teenage girls and young women are struggling with their mental health.
The usual suspects: When it comes to the diagnosable causes of their suffering, the picture in Birmingham appears fairly typical. The most common reasons for a referral to a mental health service are anxiety, depression, conditions like ADHD and autism and self-harming behaviours. Since 2020, there has also been a nationwide spike in the number of young people suffering from an eating disorder — a trend many attribute to the effects of lockdown.
Bigger than Covid: It’s not just the pandemic though. Data from Forward Thinking Birmingham — a partnership of organisations that support those under 25 — shows that the increase in demand for mental health services, while exacerbated by the pandemic, actually predates it. (Note: due to a national cyber attack on the Carenotes IT system, data from August-December 2022 is unavailable).
Some good news: However, this extra pressure is not being spread evenly. Despite more young people presenting with mental health problems overall, the number being accepted as patients of a secondary mental health service — essentially, a specialist team — is far lower in recent years than it was in 2019.
This can be partly attributed to the fact that a partnership of organisations, including Birmingham Children’s Trust, known as STICK (Screening, Training, Intervention, Consultation and Knowledge) has streamlined access to early help, reducing the need for escalation to secondary care.
Some not so good news: The data shows far more young people with mental health issues are now ending up in urgent care, such as A&E, a trend that is particularly pronounced in those dealing with autism or a learning difficulty.
Possible reasons for this increase include the additional societal challenges of a post-pandemic world – such as the cost-of-living crisis producing extra stress in a child’s family — and a two-year gap due to successive lockdowns where it was far harder to engage with the relevant services.
Also, the reduction in social stigma related to mental health has been cited.
Bottom line: While it is positive that Birmingham City Council has looked into this complex issue, there seems to be a need for a national-scale response to support young people through these mental health challenges. On a local level, the council decided to pursue this inquiry in 2022, before news of its financial crisis broke. But the report has come out since the section 114, so its recommendations have had to be made within existing resources and capacity which, as we all know, are limited.
Photo of the week
We loved this photo of the Birmingham skyline that was taken from the Lickey Hills, just before dawn on Sunday, by Daniel Sturley.
Brum in Brief
⚽ Tony Mowbray has succeeded Wayne Rooney to become Birmingham City FC’s new manager. The former Sunderland and Blackburn coach will be the club’s 13th manager in as many years. “I know from personal experience how passionate Blunenoses are home and away,” said Mowbray. “I’m looking forward to the team having their full support, starting on Saturday.”
🏤 A former sub-postmistress from Telford who was jailed aged 19 has spoken out against those responsible for the Horizon Post Office scandal. Tracy Felstead was falsely accused of stealing £11,503 while working at Camberwell Green Post Office in London. "We were classed as criminals by the Post Office, now it's their turn to actually be investigated," she said. "Somebody needs to be held accountable for everybody."
🚆 It is unlikely that land purchased for the second leg of HS2, which was axed by Rishi Sunak last year, will be sold off before the next general election, it has emerged. This could make it easier for whichever party that wins to reinstate the plans. “However, its sudden cancellation, as well as the difficulty in securing the expertise required to build the scheme, mean it may then be even more expensive to deliver.” The Observer reports.
🗑️ Bin collections in Birmingham return to their usual schedule this week. You can double check yours by putting in your postcode at this link. The mobile household recycling centres are also back in action this week collecting bulky items you need to get rid of. You can check if there will be one near you at this link.
Home of the week
This three-bedroom terraced house with a large garden and big windows in Yardley is available for £270,500.
📰 The Guardian’s Dining Across the Divide feature took place in Birmingham recently, with a diner from Walsall and another from Oxford meeting in the Jewellery Quarter to hash out their political differences. One man described himself as an “old school socialist” and the other had previously voted Lib Dem but spoiled his ballot in 2019. They discuss colonialism, universal basic income, and public sector pensions.
🎞️ Joe Lycett’s short film Linda is available to stream for £1.50 on Vimeo. Starring Janice Connelly, the seven minute piece is about a woman who gets a job at the post office and starts “telling lies”. The movie was made in Birmingham and was part of the Flatpack Film Festival’s short film competition in 2023. All proceeds go back into the local film industry.
🎧 Local food podcast Breaking Bread recently featured culinary artist Kaye Winwood of Gulp, the grade II listed dining and creative space for hire in the city centre. It’s an interesting discussion with an unusual subject. Winwood started out as a painter in the eighties, with a focus on experiential art, before pivoting to food as a medium. “Adjacent to Gulp is Kaye Winwood’s creative studio, where her love for art, innovation, and sensory design comes to life. Here, Kaye fuses her extensive artistic background with her unique ‘beyond-the-plate’ approach, transforming the dining experience into a sensorial playground.”
Things to do
🥋 This free tai chi for carers group meets every Tuesday to help relieve stress and build fitness. No need to book — just arrive in time for 11.45am at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre in Moseley.
💡 Budding entrepeneurs can meet likeminded business people for tips and to try out new ideas in front of an understanding audience at this meet up. 6.30pm at 1000 Trades.
🛼 Roller skate in peace on Wednesdays at Digbeth’s Roller Jam, where the lights will be turned down, the music quieter, and smoke cannons firmly switched off. 6-11pm.
🚲 Join a social cycle ride meeting at Moor Street Station at 6.45pm heading to Stirchley’s Sliced and Diced café for drinks and board games at 7pm.
📷 The National Trust Back to Backs are hosting this exhibition of photographs by Gary Lindsay-Moore and garments by Kahn and Bell, the iconic 1980s Birmingham designers. 5.30-7pm. Tickets £7.
🍣 Yo Sushi is hosting a sushi school in Selfridges where you can learn the difference between a maki and a temaki and how to roll your own. Tickets from £19.95 and you can take home what you make.