‘Child mental health services need proper funding and restructuring to be fit for the 21st century’, says Natasha Devon.
Natasha Devon MBE, was the Government’s first ever Mental Health Champion for schools. She travels to schools and colleges throughout the UK delivering classes and conducting research with teenagers, teachers and parents on mental health, body image and social equality.
In recent weeks, she writes, the TES has published a number of pieces exploring the current state of Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS). It’s interesting to note that, despite the Office for National Statistics reporting a doubling in the number of teenage suicides in the past eight years and a 68 per cent increase in the number of hospitalisations for self-harm since 2015, commentary on CAMHS was conspicuously absent in the rest of the media during Children’s Mental Health Week, earlier this month.
First, a brief history. Between 2010 and 2015, funding for CAMHS was cut by £50 million under austerity measures. In 2015, a widely publicised government “investment” into children’s mental health pledged £1.5 billion over the next five years. This focused specifically on training teachers in spotting early signs and funding a pilot scheme (the results of which are yet to be published) whereby schools would have a designated CAMHS worker on site.
However, here’s what all of that looks like on the ground: Teachers are being given training in Youth Mental Health First-Aid (YMHFA) skills. This is an excellent way to equip staff to spot symptoms of mental ill-health and to explain how to have conversations about it and where to send these young people for help. However, the efficacy of such training does depend on there being local CAMH services available.
Owing to increased demand coupled with dwindling budgets and staff, thresholds for CAMHS have grown ever higher and waiting lists longer (‘two years for an appointment is not unusual, according to my Twitter correspondents). It is no longer enough, for example, for a pupil to be self-harming to “qualify” for an appointment. In fact – as an investigation in the Telegraph revealed recently – sometimes a suicide attempt is not considered sufficiently “urgent”.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Training Ltd offers the ‘Living Life To The Full course’.
This is ideal for schools wanting to provide a cost effective, evidence-based intervention for those students identified as having difficulties with stress, anxiety or low mood within the mild to moderate range. CBT-based group work is recommended by NICE as the first line of treatment for mild to moderate anxiety difficulties.
The LLTTF has a robust evidence-base for effectiveness (Devon LLTTF pilot) and is recommended in Mental health promotion and prevention training programmes by Public Health England,p.21 2016.
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