Roughly three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. In 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for young people, both male and female, aged between five and 19. But what is it like for young people who are trying to access support from the NHS? The picture, tragically, is a bleak one.
To begin with, a recent ITV News investigation found that young people in England and Wales are waiting up to four years for mental health help.
Of all 62 mental health trusts with children’s services, 32 responded and the results were, to say the least, dire. Over a third of trusts reported that children are waiting more than a year for their first appointment. Yet in South London, the longest wait is a massive 1,497 days. That’s just over four years.
In Rotherham, the longest wait is 872 days, and in Leicestershire it is 226 days.
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The investigation comes after the mental health charity Young Minds found in its January 2021 Coronavirus survey that 67% of young people who participated believe that the pandemic will have a long-term negative impact on their mental health.
In their Covid-19 autumn 2020 survey, Young Minds found that only 27% of students who participated had a one-to-one conversation with a member of school staff in which they were asked about their wellbeing. 40% said there was no school counsellor available to support them in school, and 69% reported their mental health was poor when they returned to classrooms.
The pandemic has not just impacted young people’s mental health when returning to school, but also those in need of serious mental health help. In October last year, ITV News reported that young people were having to travel “hundreds of miles for care”.
In one October week, around 90 beds were available in the whole country, meaning some children, like Kirsten Collin’s daughter Freya, are treated 90 miles away from home for eating disorders, or other mental health conditions.
Freya’s mother said that she knew of young people who are 400 miles away from home and being treated for severe mental health problems. As a result, Ms Collin said she considered herself “fortunate”.
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Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of Young Minds, said that a failure to act on young people’s mental health now will spell even worse problems for access to services in the future.
“We’re playing catch up in terms of young peoples’ mental health so currently that means young people will only get support when they are ill enough,” Ms Thomas said.
Mental health minister Nadine Dorries said in a statement: “Early intervention and treatment is vital, and we are providing an extra £2.3 billion to help an additional 345,000 children and young people access NHS-funded services or school and college-based support.”
Just a note…
And finally, just a note from us here at Beep: take care and don’t forget that it’s okay to be struggling. It can get better.
Here are some places you can go for some help with whatever’s going on right now:
- Samaritans (24/7, all people, free): 116 123
- ChildLine (Offer 1-2-1 chats, free phone service and have a great website): 0800 1111
- CALM (for men, free, 5pm-12am): 0800 58 58 58
- Refuge (free, for domestic violence, 24hr) – 0808 2000 247