Today is the start of Children’s Mental Health Week (running 6th-12th February), run by UK charity Place2Be and supported by a range of other charities, such as ChildLine and Heads Together. The aim is to prioritise mental wellbeing in young people and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
This is all the more pressing because a survey by Place2Be found that 63% of Year Six children worry ‘all the time’ about a single issue connected to their home life, school or themselves. The survey, based on more than 700 UK pupils aged 10-11 (from Year Six or Scottish Primary 7 classes), also revealed that, once a child starts worrying about an issue, nearly a third of them cannot stop worrying.
Furthermore, ChildLine has revealed it took 50,000 mental health-related calls from children in 2016, or one call every 11 minutes – an 8% increase since 2012. More than a third of ChildLine’s counselling sessions were delivered to those aged 12-15.
“It’s striking how many more children seem to be suffering serious mental health problems today than when we launched Childline 30 years ago,” said ChildLine’s founder, Dame Esther Rantzen.
Both charities’ findings come as the government’s mental health spending continues to fall short, yet the Department of Health states that 50% of mental health problems start by the time a child is 14, rising to 75% by the time a child is 18, making the lack of funding and access all the more baffling. Early intervention – if available – can make all the difference to long-term wellbeing, but gaining access to the NHS’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), let alone treatment, can be a challenge.
Pulse, a magazine for GPs, reported in July 2016 that three in five GP referrals to CAMHS were rejected and no specialist treatment was offered. In some areas of the UK, a staggering 80% of CAMHS referrals were rejected. Overall, Pulse found that 64% of GP referrals were assessed; in 2013, 89% were assessed. Particularly worrying was a tendency by CAMHS to only accept children who had attempted suicide, had psychotic thoughts or self-harmed, thereby excluding those who had not exhibited such behaviours but stil needed specialist help.
Future Developments in Children’s Mental Health
Prime Minister Theresa May announced a series of mental health reforms on 9th January, including included mental health first aid training to be offered to all secondary schools, plus a review of all child and adolescent mental health services.
Until those reforms are rolled out, mental health services provision is a postcode lottery across the country. Of course, there are some successful steps being taken in parts of the UK, such as the recently opened Young Person’s Advisory Service (YPAS) Plus Community Hub in Liverpool, organised by Liverpool’s CAMHS Partnership. But at the other end of the scale, some children needing inpatient hospital treatment can be sent hundreds of miles away from their families. The Prime Minister has pledged that, by 2021, no child will be sent outside their local area for treatment, hopefully making parents’ and carers’ lives that little bit easier.
Blogging for The Huffington Post, child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. John Goldin called for schools to get more involved in pupil wellbeing by investigating their local CAMHS: ‘Schools can better support pupils when they know what CAMHS can provide – especially when a pupil doesn’t meet CAMHS referral criteria and needs to be signposted to other sources of support.’ You can read Dr. Goldin’s full post here.
Schools, families and businesses are all being encouraged to get involved in Children’s Mental Health Week in their own way – Place2Be has created assembly packs for primary and secondary teachers, and PowerPoint slides for classroom sessions. Individuals can print off A4 PDFs to include in a selfie which will raise awareness during the week, using the hashtag #ChildrensMHW. However you choose to mark the occasion, remember you’ll help make a difference to young people’s lives.
Useful Resources for Parents and Young People
- Young Minds is a mental health charity for young people; it’s also a charity partner of Heads Together. If you’re a parent or carer of anyone under 25 and you’re worried about their mental health, you can call the Young Minds Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544.
- Rethink, the mental health charity, runs a Siblings Network for anyone whose brother or sister has been affected by emotional problems; there’s also a Youth Area for younger siblings, and the charity advises that any young carers get involved with their local support group to meet other children and adolescents caring for loved ones.
- Mind has a series of booklets telling young people’s stories about their mental health conditions, such as anorexia. The Mind blog also has posts from parents and other family members on supporting a young person in distress. For phone support, call the Mind Infoline, open Monday-Friday from 09:00-18:00, on 0300 123 3393.