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Mental health website for worried teens
By Victoria Owen

Teenagers concerned about their mental health are being urged to log on to a dedicated website to help them understand their condition.

Occupational therapist Steve Bell and clinical psychologist Keith Butler, of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership, designed the site to reach out to youngsters with serious problems.

Both clinicians helped set up the trust's early intervention service, which treats people with psychosis before their illness becomes extreme. They hope the website will guide more people to the service.

Mr Bell said: "If a young person is concerned about their mental health and is asking questions, we want to provide somewhere they can go to establish if they are developing a mental health problem.

"It is much less threatening to do this in front of a computer in your own home, rather than talking to someone else about it."

The website, called Am I OK?, explains mental health problems in simple language and encourages children and young adults to seek help from a GP, teacher or friend.

Mr Bell explained: "We want to reassure the website users that if they seek help quickly things won't get any worse.

"It's about being proactive and promoting positive wellbeing."

Oxfordshire early intervention service was set up a year ago, and has so far helped 100 young people with psychosis - a mental illness which can lead to patients hearing voices in their heads, becoming socially isolated and even being sectioned for their own safety.

Early treatment can tackle the problem before it gets serious.

Mr Bell said: "The experience of psychosis is a living nightmare.

"Young people with psychosis often have to be supported financially and socially for a substantial time. The stress on carers and family is enormous.

"There are many sites on the Internet that deal with psychosis and schizophrenia, but the majority contain a lot of jargon and are often quite academic.

"In other words they don't seem to be suitable for troubled young people who do not know how to identify their problem."

The site Am I OK? has been developed by Mr Bell and Mr Butler with help from a focus group of senior clinicians and a carer.
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