Naked Politics Blogger
In the five year forward view for mental health, the Mental Health Taskforce reported that ¾ of all mental health problems are established by the age of 24 years old. Shockingly still, 1/10 children aged between 5-16 years have a diagnosable condition.
Following these hard hitting statistics the government devised a plan at the end of last year to “overhaul” mental health care for children in the UK. Ideas were discussed to improve waiting times for children to be seen and for more help to be available through Schools.
The government proposed some key changes in response:
- Far shorter waiting times for specialist support
- New mental health support teams in schools
- Mental health awareness training in primary and secondary schools
- One in four schools to have the provision in place by 2022
However, despite these promising plans many people still have great concerns for the wellbeing of young people and support with mental health. In particular the Education Select Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee have raised concerns with the plans and have voiced the opinion that they “risk leaving hundreds of thousands without proper care.”
Amongst other issues one of the main concerns with this plan was the time frame. As it had been made clear in the lead up to Mental Health Week there is an increasing number of younger and younger people being diagnosed and needing treatment for mental health issues within the UK. There is a risk that the level of need for treatment has been underestimated with outdated figures that need to be reviewed.
The two Committees continued further by pointing out that there needs to be more detail and emphasis on:
- Early intervention
- Pressures such as social media or the current exam system
- Helping groups more prone to mental distress- such as children in care or in the criminal justice system
Though it can’t be argued that these issues need to be addressed and looked at in order to start seeing improvements with mental health issues affecting children, many people feel that there is simply not enough funding in place already for mental health support in the schooling system. There simply would not be enough money to put into furthering this scheme.
Others raise the point that it should not be teachers who have to be complicit in treating mental health issues. Teachers are trained to teach and we should leave mental health aid to “the experts in that field” (Paul Whiteman, NAHT). Again the question of funding for the proper treatment and adequate services is called into question, with school funds being notoriously low in the last few years.
The British Medical Association agree sharing the view that government should be providing “urgent funding required to ensure that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services has a universal reach.” Adding that staff should be trained and supported to see “meaningful change”.
The Government have responded to these concerns and points raised by assuring the public that there will be the largest new workforce introduced to the Mental Health Services and this will be backed by “£300 Million of additional funding.” They emphasised the importance of access to mental health services particularly with the growing cases of young people being diagnosed and struggling with their mental health.
There is no question that there has been a raise in the awareness of mental health issues and that the numbers of sufferers, particularly in young people, have risen dramatically over the past few years. With some new plans in place, perhaps we will see a decline in wait time and more support to be readily available to those in need. If the resources can be pooled together to make mental health issues a priority there is hope for new statistics showing an improvement for the mental health of the youth of the UK.