Mental-health services ‘fail young people’

21 June 2019

Charity reveals 83-day wait, on average, for treatment

ISTOCK

MORE than 100,000 children who seek help with mental illness are being turned away, a new study has found.

The study, Finding Help, published this week by The Children’s Society, estimates that up to 110,000 10- to 17-year-olds in England and Wales were denied treatment or counselling in 2017 because their mental-health problems were not deemed serious enough.

The Children’s Society report is based on Freedom of Information requests to NHS trusts. It says that 185,000 young people were referred to specialist mental-health services in 2017. Only 79,000 received treatment in the same year.

Even for those children with the most serious mental-health needs, the waiting time for first treatment averages at 83 days.

The Children’s Society also carried out a survey of 1004 parents in August 2018. Among the respondents, 32 per cent of parents with children between the ages of four and 17 said that their child had been affected by a mental-health issue during the past year. Two in five of those parents had sought help and not received any.

The incidence of mental illness reported in the survey was higher than the national average. Figures from NHS Digital suggest that one child in eight aged between five and 19 had a mental-health difficulty in 2017.

”The failure to support our most vulnerable should be an affront to all of us,” the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, said. She is vice-chair of trustees at the Children’s Society.

“Mental ill-health affects every area of a child’s life, including their safety, their relationships, their education, and their physical health. Some of our children die as a consequence of mental illness. Mental health-care for children cannot wait. Our children deserve care when they need it. Full stop.

“When children have symptoms of physical illness, we act; we don’t wait to see if they grow out of it or how seriously it affects their health once they’ve grown up. We act.”

The director of policy and research for the charity, Sam Royston, said on Monday: “It’s a scandal that so many children and young people who are suffering with their mental health are not getting the support they need, either by being deemed too well for treatment, having to wait many months, or having no early intervention alternatives available, meaning they are likely to become more unwell and hit crisis-point.”

On Sunday, the Prime Minister announced plans to train every new teacher in England to spot early warning signs of mental illness. In addition, there would be a £1-million competition for universities to devise innovative ways of tackling mental-health problems; and NHS staff would be encouraged to take suicide-prevention training.

Mr Royston said: “The Government must commit to properly measuring the well-being of our children, and ensure every child has easy access to early-help services in their community, if we are truly to prevent today’s children from living with mental ill-health in the future.”

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