Call the Doctor (or Not): Problems in the Mental Health System

A BBC health article (read here) on child mental health shows that school teachers are calling 999 or taking students to A&E to get them appropriate mental health support. This is one sign of a far bigger problem.

This problem arises from the gap in provision between mental and physical health – known as parity of esteem. This means that local mental health services and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are no longer able to offer early support to children and young people struggling with their mental health. This means many more young people are reaching crisis point before receiving help. We know the early the intervention the better the outcome. Allowing people to get into crisis before an intervention is available can cause long term physical and mental health problems.  It’s also creating a burden on emergency services who are being required to step in.

Even when appropriate services are accessed there is no guarantee of their availability, particularly with any form of immediacy. Waiting lists are common within the NHS. There is also no guarantee that your borough offers the best form of therapy for you. There is always private provision but many cannot afford this. This leaves us with a postcode lottery with provision (what you get and when) based on where you live.  All of these issues point to the need for a better system and better provision of mental health services for children and young people as well as the rest of society.

The government are working toward a ‘Future in Mind’ project to improve mental health provision for children and young adults. This aims to improve care for those who are most vulnerable. This will include prevention and early intervention. Despite the ‘Future in Mind’ project and government pledged investment of £1.4bn in young people’s mental health over the next 5 years there is still plenty more to be done. Research suggests that 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time(Lifetime Impacts: Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health, Understanding the Lifetime Impacts, 2005). This is a scary statistic with further suggestions that approximately 24,000 suicide attempts are made by 10-19 year olds in England and Wales each year. This amounts to one attempt every 20 minutes. (Eden-Evans, V. (2004) Young People and Suicide). As these numbers show this is hardly an issue we can afford to ignore. It’s time to get educated about mental health and how you can help.

To sign the equality for mental health petition as above click here.

To sign the Time to Change petition to pledge to end stigma and discrimination in mental health click here.

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