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February 21, 2019

It’s #OCDwoa – time to stand up for our rights

Ruby Waterworth

This week marks OCD week of action (#OCDwoa), where people all over the country are raising awareness about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – a condition that affects 1-2% of the UK population. 

We often hear people talk about being ‘a little bit OCD’. But OCD is a debilitating anxiety disorder that prevents individuals from carrying out basic day-to-day tasks and affects their ability to study, work and maintain relationships. It is characterised by repeated, intrusive negative thoughts (obsessions), combined with rituals or actions carried out in order to quieten those thoughts (compulsions). It’s not about keeping things neat and tidy. 

From 18th-24th February, individuals across the country are committing to doing one thing which will make a positive difference to those affected by OCD. Set up five years ago by a team of volunteers at OCD Action, #OCDwoa aims to raise awareness about the condition and support more people to get help. Their website lists a range of ways to get involved – from putting a poster up in a shop to sharing information with a friend with OCD about where to find support. 

Despite effective treatment for OCD, the average waiting time between the start of the condition and treatment is 12 years. 

Despite effective treatment for OCD, the average waiting time between the start of the condition and treatment is 12 years. 

This is particularly worrying for young people. As with most mental health conditions, OCD usually starts in childhood, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that at least 130,000 young people suffer with the condition. But far too many young people seeking help for their mental health aren’t able to access support: current government ambitions to improve care for young people would still leave two in three young people going without the mental health treatment they need. 

This OCD week of action, we are shouting loud and clear: this just isn’t good enough.  

So, this OCD week of action, we are shouting loud and clear: this just isn’t good enough.  

Because by failing to support young people who need help, when they need it, the mental health system isn’t just letting young people down – it’s failing to meet their human rights. 

Make Our Rights Reality’s youth-led movement is fighting back. Our #MyRightsMyMind petition calls on decision-makers across the country to pledge to take a ‘rights-based approach’ to mental healthcare, based on principles laid out in international human rights agreements – principles that the UK has signed up to, alongside the majority of the world’s states.  

A ‘rights-based approach’ means a mental health system that provides: 

  1. Age-appropriate care for 16-25-year-olds – because young people have specific needs, different from children and older adults. 
  1. Early identification of need and intervention – not waiting 12 years for the right support! 
  1. Community-based support – in our town centres and highstreets, not miles away or only in schools or hospitals. 
  1. Transparency and accountability – so young people know why they’re being turned away or made to wait, rather than feeling like they’re not worth treatment. 
  1. Youth participation in decision-making – because it’s our minds and our futures at stake, surely our voices should be heard? 

Without a new approach which puts our rights at its heart, the mental health system will continue to fail the young people at the sharp end of the mental health crisis – including the tens of thousands living with OCD.

This is what the young people we work with say they want time and time again. It’s also what works. Without a new approach which puts our rights at its heart, the mental health system will continue to fail the young people at the sharp end of the mental health crisis – including the tens of thousands living with OCD. 

We already have support from high profile figures from across the political spectrum and the human rights sector, as well as hundreds of signatures. But to truly make ourselves heard we need your help. We can’t keep waiting as decision-makers tinker round the edges of the system, all the while mental health problems among the young and waiting times continue to rise. Instead we need a youth-led movement that fights for change from the ground up. We hope you will join us. 

Join young people taking a stand for #MyRightsMyMind, by signing the petition calling on decision-makers to take a rights-based approach to mental healthcare. 

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