Combatting Mental Health Challenges

  • 8 July 2019

Early intervention to prevent or manage mental health conditions is crucial for young people and their families. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent low-level issues snowballing into more serious conditions. Not only is early intervention good for patients and those that support them, it can reduce the need for more intensive services later in life and therefore proves far more cost-effective in the long run. Combatting mental health challenges at an early stage is clearly a win-win for all parties.

Is the System Working?

Despite almost universal agreement that we need to combat mental health issues early, there are currently major problems with the provision of early intervention services. Lack of funding, and the recruiting and retaining of staff, are huge challenges.

A recent report by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts1 presents disturbing findings.

  • In 2017–18, only thirty percent of children and young people with a mental health condition received NHS-funded treatment.
  • Many more faced unacceptably long waits for treatment.
  • One in eight (12.8%) of 5-19 year olds have a mental health disorder, underlining the scale of the issue faced.

The report's findings certainly made the news, with The Independent2 not holding back in its reporting of the above issues and additional concerns raised in the government report:

“NHS services are turning away many children and young people because their condition is not considered severe enough to warrant access to overstretched services, even though it can later deteriorate to a point of crisis, the report warns.”

“The committee found that children who are denied NHS support are currently not kept track of and are not routinely directed to other services that could help them.”

Partnership With the Not-for-Profit Sector

In addition to the NHS, many areas of government provide early intervention services, for example schools and local government. However, significant funding challenges in recent years have reduced non-statutory support. This is where the not-for-profit sector helps, addressing the gap in the provision required to combat the mental health challenge. Step by Step is one such organisation.

Working in partnership with Mindsight Surrey Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Hampshire Youth Access (HYA), Step by Step supports young people who are going through hard times, including mental health issues. The specialist support services include free counselling sessions to help young people in Surrey and Hampshire to talk about their worries and how to manage them.

“We have an extremely strong working relationship with both Mindsight Surrey CAMHS and Hampshire Youth Access,” says Paul Harris, Counselling Lead at Step by Step. “Through working in partnership, we provide successful prevention and early intervention services to address young people's mental health challenges.”

“Having an understanding of what causes my anxiety is good and I am now able to correlate this with events in my past. In 6 sessions I have become a calmer person and I am not constantly on edge or getting worked up. There's still work to do, but I will get there.”

Step by Step's counselling service is based on building a trusting relationship with the young person, helping them to talk about their experiences and worries and how to manage them in a supportive way. Counsellors are trained to listen carefully and thoughtfully, without judgement - they do not give advice but provide support to help people make positive decisions for themselves.

The Impact That Step by Step Makes

In 2018, Step by Step counselling services made a demonstrable difference to the lives of young people living in Hampshire and Surrey:

  • 1,788 counselling sessions were delivered
  • 85% of young people showed an improvement in well-being – based on the use of the Young Person Core Outcome measure
  • 530 young people accessed the counselling service

In response to a satisfaction questionnaire, young people were very positive about how Step by Step helped them:

  • 100% felt “listened to”,
  • 99% said their counsellor was “easy to talk to”,
  • 99% felt their “views and worries were taken seriously”.

(based on total 96 responses)

“It was one of the only spaces where I felt like I was being heard. It helped me to figure out more about myself and how to deal with my problems.”

A Better Vision for the Future

Step by Step passionately believes in supporting young people in Hampshire and Surrey who are facing mental health challenges. The charity is convinced that a comprehensive, long-term plan to support young people's mental health is needed, and that this should be developed by government working with the non-for-profit sector.

"Step by Step believes that there must be a total transformation of our mental health services, with an emphasis on intervening early to help to prevent problems later in life," explained Paul Harris, Counselling Lead. “We welcome the opportunity to engage with commissioners to build a way forward to combat the challenges facing many young people.”

Collaboration is undoubtedly taking place at the grass roots level, as demonstrated by Step by Step's successful partnership with Mindsight Surrey CAMHS Services and Hampshire Youth Access. However, at the policy and planning level - right at the heart of government - there's an opportunity to do much more. Greater partnership with the not- for-profit sector is fundamental in order to make urgent headway in improving the provision of mental health services and support that young people need. Step by Step is up for the challenge.

Join the Step by Step team

We are currently looking to recruit Self-Employed Counsellors to join our Counselling Team, supporting the delivery of our service in North Hampshire and South West Surrey.

As a counsellor, you will manage a weekly caseload, providing short term therapy. You must hold a relevant professional qualification in Counselling or Psychotherapy at Diploma level or above. Read more about the opportunity to work with Step by Step.


1. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, Mental health services for children and young people, December

2. Young people 'turned away' from NHS mental health support left to hit crisis point, MPs warn, The Independent, January 2019,

*Name changed to respect privacy.

Step by Step mental health support