World Mental Health Day 2022: Expert psychologist reflects on issues faced by young people with cancer
Posted 10th October 2022
mark this World Mental Health Day, Monday 10th October 2022,
Clinical Psychologist Dr Kate Edwards at The Clatterbridge Cancer
Foundation Trust reflects on her experiences of supporting teenagers and young
adults with cancer over the last 15 years.
Teenage and Young Adult Unit at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool
cares for anyone aged 16 to 24 with a variety of cancers from across
Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man. Cancer in this age group
is rare – with only 2% of all newly diagnosed cancers coming from this age
group each year in the UK.
medical treatment, the Teenage and Young Adult Unit pays particular focus to
the continued psycho-social development of the young people in their care.
Kate Edwards has worked at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre for 15 years, she
says: “The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre was the first Trust to employ a
dedicated Clinical Psychologist into the TYA setting and the team here
have always been incredibly welcoming and understanding of the importance of
psychological support and interventions at a time of great physical challenge.
can be referred to me via their clinical teams or they can self-refer
themselves or their family members for additional support.
16-24 years old is a transitionary period in our lives, where we are often
discovering our own independence, interests and personalities. It’s often a
time when we are leaving our family home for the first time or even starting
families, careers or studying away from home. For a young person, as with any
age, a cancer diagnosis during this period can be incredibly challenging,
sometimes resulting in a feeling that your life has been ‘put on hold.’
support people going through treatment and beyond, as well as their family
members in dealing with the diagnosis, their ongoing treatment and side effects
and the return into society or ‘normal’ post-cancer life.”
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches and methodology, young people are
supported through anxiety, depression, issues with self-esteem - cancer
treatment and medications can sometimes impact physical appearance –
re-adjustment into life post-treatment and also side-effects of treatment such
as associative sickness or needle-phobia before starting treatment.
Edwards continues, “I think one of the biggest changes I’ve seen throughout my
career and the issues we come across is with the development of social media.
media for anyone can have many positives and negatives but for people who are
already feeling vulnerable, the impact can be extreme. You see some young
people who really benefit from using social media – who share their stories and
connect with people around the world, getting a real sense of purpose and belonging
from their posts and interactions. But you also see the negatives – people who
see their friends and peers sharing their ‘normal’ lives on social media,
meaning they can often feel left behind or have their feelings of isolation
impact of social media is becoming more and more documented but it is a real
issue that we have to support our young people with.
me, it’s a real privilege to support people and their families at such a
difficult and changing time in their life. People often assume my job must be
really sad – and yes, there are sad situations but I enjoy being able to help
in some small way.”
Edwards also helped to set up a staff support network for anyone working across
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre with their own resilience and mental wellbeing.