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Children’s Mental Health week highlights shortcomings in system

Mental health struggles arent exclusive to adults. Many children around the world are at odds with how to deal with their mental and emotional wellbeing and in the UK, childrens crisis organizations are sounding the alarm.

It was established by the children’s mental health charity Place2Be, with the intention of shining a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental wellbeing.

The organisation has been running for more than three decades, working closely with pupils, family, and staff in 500 schools across England, Scotland, and Wales to support young children’s mental health.

In recent months, Place2Be has made urgent calls for greater investment into children’s mental health services. This action came after a sharp rise in emergency and urgent referrals to child and mental health crisis in the year 2022-2023.

Though great efforts have been taken to destigmatise the subject of mental health, including struggles like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, more than half of all children and young people in the UK say that they experience difficulties seeking support.

 

A nationwide YouGov survey investigated the barriers children face when thinking about asking for help.

Respondents cited feeling uncomfortable speaking to someone they do not know (29%), wanting their struggles to remain a secret (19%), being scared about their friends’ reactions (20%) and being concerned about their families’ response (16%).

This, unfortunately, leaves children to try to cope with struggles on their own and often results in their mental condition worsening over time. Over the course of three years, the number of children referred to emergency mental healthcare in England has soared by more than 50 percent.

Between the year 2022-2023, a total of 32,521 emergency and urgent child referrals were recorded. This is a hefty jump from 21,242 recorded in the year before the coronavirus pandemic.

 

For those who do speak out, they regularly find that there are not enough resources to get help.

On average, children in need of emergency care – some being suicidal or struggling with severe eating disorders – have been waitlisted for as long as two years. The average wait time is usually five months for young patients.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, the chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists child and adolescent faculty, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that so many children and young people are reaching crisis point before they are able to access care. We cannot allow this to become the new norm.’

He continued, ‘Severe mental illness is not just an adult problem. The need for specialist mental health services for children and young people is growing all the time.’

In a welcome move, the UK government announced an additional £5 million in funding aimed improving early access to support for young people between the ages of 11-25.

However, analysis conducted at the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests this budget is far less than what is really needed. As much as £125 – £205 million would be needed to set up adequate resources in every local authority, with annual running costs of at least £114 million a year.

As a youth mental health crisis rages on across Britain, The Department of Health and Social Care has said it will provide the NHS with an extra £2.3 billion a year. This is expected to significantly improve help and support for children in schools by 2025.

It’s no secret that the government has dropped the ball when it comes to funding healthcare as a whole – including mental health services. This makes the work and advocacy of charities like Place2Be all the more valuable.

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