Mental Health

Mental health plans failing a generation

In December, the government announced plans to overhaul children’s mental health care, with proposals limiting waiting time to four weeks and allowing children to access mental health support in schools.

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Sally, now 20, believes her mental distress should have been spotted years before she received treatment that helped her.

She says she became ill when she first started secondary school.

Teachers noticed, describing her as “an odd child”, but in the end it was Sally herself who had to ask her doctor for help and she was on the edge of suicide before she got any effective treatment.

The charity Young Minds says it is not uncommon for families to have to wait 18 months even to get an assessment for their child, let alone treatment.

Chart showing mental health problems in children and young people

The government announced plans to overhaul children’s mental health care, with proposals limiting waiting time to four weeks and allowing children to access mental health support in schools.

Now a report from MPs has branded the strategy “unambitious”, providing no help to most of the children who need it.

But ministers reject the suggestion, saying their proposals will transform the system.

The plans include:

  • 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
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Sally’s story

Sally says by the age of 12 she had very poor attendance and was self harming.

At 15 she Googled her symptoms and made herself an appointment with her GP.

But she says she had too little emotional intelligence or vocabulary to explain herself clearly to medical staff.

One nurse even accused her of being manipulative for crying and a doctor asked her if she was self diagnosing when she said she thought she might be depressed.

She says she got no effective treatment until she was 16 and found herself no longer able to tell what was real and what wasn’t.

 

Child's drawing 

MPs on the Education Select Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee say the government’s plans risk leaving hundreds of thousands without proper care.

They also say there is too little 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

Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, called for services to be joined up “in a way which places children and young people at their heart and that improves services to all children rather than a minority”.

Rob Halfon, chair of the Education Committee, called for urgent action by government “to address the mental health issues which children and young people face today”.

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Child's drawing  

 

Mental health plans failing a generation
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