Young people suffering in silence

Young people suffering in silence

By Liz Lockhart

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will announce today that up to £22m will be spent on a pioneering programme to allow children with mental health problems access to the very best services available.  This access is also intended to be delivered in a wider range of places.

Whilst this news is welcome we ask ‘is it enough’?  With mental health problems currently affecting 1 in 4 people in the United Kingdom it is vital that we safeguard our young people to avoid further problems in the long term, both for them and for our overstretched health care services.

In response to Mr. Clegg’s announcement The Mental Health Foundation says that we must remember that this is not ‘job done’.  Children’s mental health needs to be supported from the day they are born, as a child’s early years are crucially important in terms of developing good mental wellbeing and emotional resilience for their lifetime.

The Department of Health describes this new initiative as a ground-breaking children’s mental health programme.   The investment will go to the Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) project and will be given over the next three years.  It is intended to improve their state-of-the-art psychological therapies, whilst also giving extended training for people who work with young people outside the health settings, for example youth groups and schools.

The Department of Health says that one in ten children aged between 5 and 16 has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.  Half of all adults with long term mental health problems will have experienced their first symptom before the age of 14.  10% of 15-16 year-old have self-harmed and self-harming and substance abuse are known to be common children and young people with mental health disorders.

It is the current failure to treat mental health problems in children that can lead to a devastating impact on their future.  This can result in reduced job and life expectations.  The best chances in life will be obtained by encouraging people to be open about mental illness and by extending the available therapies to ensure intervention is at hand.

Nick Clegg said ‘Too many young people suffer in silence with mental health problems.  This is vital investment that will give children the very best tailored treatment to restore them to good health, so that their illnesses are not simply swept under the carpet.’

Clegg added ‘With one in ten young people suffering from a mental health problems, we cannot let this issue drift or rely on adult services as a cure-all.  The money we are investing today will work specifically for children on therapies that are proven to work.  Mental health must have the same priority as physical health.  Giving children the treatment they need as soon as they need it will help ensure that millions of children suffering from a mental health problem will have a fairer opportunity to succeed in life.’

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow hopes that this additional funding will help to deliver services specific to young people and to change the way mental health is delivered by the NHS.  He says that the aim is to transform existing mental health services for children so that our children get the best treatment possible, from services that are more responsive to their needs.

How the new funding will be spent:

  • Making treatment available to many more young people with mental health problems
  • Providing access to a wider range of psychological therapies including help to support families, or treatment for major health problems of adolescence including eating disorders, depression, self-harm, and conduct problems occurring with ADHD
  • Training to focus on extending the skills and experience of NHS clinicians and people who work with young people such as teachers, social workers and counsellors

The Department of Health is also providing up to £16million funding over the next four years to the Time to Change social marketing campaign which aims to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.

Barbara McIntosh, Head of Children and Young People’s Programmes at the Mental Health Foundation, says “We are delighted that the Government has committed to invest a further £22 million in psychological therapies for children and young people. At a time of austerity and cuts, it is encouraging that the issue of mental health, particularly children and young people’s mental health, is being given priority on the public health agenda.’

This is particularly relevant for school settings where we know that in an average classroom 10 young people will have witnessed their parents separate, 8 will have experienced physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect, 1 will have experience the death of a parent, and 7 will have been bullied.

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