By Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds
Over the term of this government we have had a mental health strategy, a mental health strategy implementation framework, an ‘action plan’ detailing 25 mental health priorities and, this week, a mental health crisis care concordat.
All of these embody sentiments and contain calls to action that should help improve children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. However, for all the documents created in Whitehall, the findings of the investigation published today by Community Care and BBC News suggest that we are still failing too many children with mental health problems.
Too many are ending up in hospitals miles from home. Too many are being placed on adult mental health wards, not because of clinical need, but because of a lack of resources locally.
Some people, shocked by today’s findings, will say the answer is simply to build more children’s inpatient units so that young people do not need to be on adult wards. However, this ‘solution’ does not address the true failure of the system to help support children and young people when they start to struggle with their mental health.
Failure to spot the signs and provide appropriate support when a child is first displaying problems with their mental health and emotional wellbeing lies at the heart of the problem’s highlighted today. For some children, appropriate inpatient care will be needed, but currently we hear of far too many cases of children and young people missed by the system who would not have ended up in an inpatient unit if appropriate support had arrived earlier.
Frustratingly, today’s findings were all too predictable. YoungMinds has been warning for the last four years about cuts to early intervention services and the consequences of these cuts. Two-thirds of local authorities have made cuts to their Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) budgets since 2010. It is these very services, that could have spotted and supported a child struggling early on, that are disappearing.
The only comfort we can hope to take from today’s news is that those in power are prompted to take action. The action required doesn’t need a new strategy – we have one already – the mental health strategy ‘No health without mental health’.
This strategy states very clearly, that the evidence is that early intervention support for children and young people is key to improving their mental health. We know what we need to do, the evidence is there, the strategy is there, what we need now is the action to deliver it. If we do not deliver this strategy we will continue to fail our nation’s children.