Government Mental Health Strategy Comes Under Fire

The level of investment by the government in mental health services for children has been seriously criticised after some damning statistics regarding young people in England emerged.

According to a review of the mental health services conducted by the Children’s Commissioner, over one-quarter of young people who were referred for support in England last year were ultimately sent away without receiving any form of help.

Those sent away without assistance even included some individuals who have previously attempted suicide.

A review of mental health services by the children’s commissioner discovered that 13% of youngsters with life-threatening conditions were not allowed specialist treatment.

In the aftermath of the report, there has been stinging criticism of the government and the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, with some experts opining that children’s mental health is being seriously neglected.

Natasha Devon, whose post as mental health champion for schools was axed this month, stated that she had specifically been jettisoned due to austerity measures, and struck a note of caution regarding the future of mental health treatment for children in England.

“The reason I was let go from the post is I was listening to what young people were telling me about the reasons for their anxiety. Most of the time they were the result of austerity. It was things like poverty, and it was also the prospect of being unemployed, student debt, academic and exam pressure. And these are all policies that have been implemented by this government and the coalition before them. So, to a degree, they are causing some of the issues, and that was the unpopular opinion that I put out there.”

Around 248,000 children were referred for specialist mental health treatment last year but 28% were refused.

It has been reported in the media that most of those turned away where due to the assessment that their conditions were not serious enough in order to warrant specialist assistance.

This verdict in many cases appears to be seriously flawed, as it is clear from reports that some of the children in question were indeed suffering from serious problems.

Commenting on the issue, Anne Longfield, Children’ Commissioner for England, suggested that the current policy is tantamount to play Russian roulette with the well-being of children.

“If a young person with a life-threatening mental health condition has to wait six months to see a specialist, we are playing Russian roulette with their lives. In many parts of the country young people’s mental health support seems to be rationed. I’ve heard from far too many children who have been denied support or struck off the list because they missed appointments. I’ve heard from others whose GPs could not manage their condition and who had to wait months to see a specialist whilst struggling with their conditions.”

The commissioner obtained data from 48 of England’s 60 child and adolescent mental health service trusts.


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