Are we failing our children?

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Other significant issues raised by the manifesto, include improvements in the transitional arrangements between child and adolescent mental health services to adult mental health services. NHS England has described current arrangements as ‘cliff edge’. They also propose a module on mental health in initial training for GPS, schools, teachers and health visitors to help them spot the ‘warning signs’ and facilitate early intervention and referral. Perhaps, the most telling part of the manifesto was their insistence that those treating ‘non-urgent children’s mental health’ adhere to the same 18 week waiting guideline as those for ‘non-urgent physical health problems’. Despite parity between mental and physical health being written into law, spending in the former has continued to fall.

It is important to say (for the naysayers) that this report is not the product of some liberal agenda to molly coddle kids. The adolescent brain is a very serious place indeed where problems are magnified and seemingly trivial matters can be distorted out of all rational shape. Delayed treatment for some of these children is nothing short of a death sentence. Indeed, the Royal College of Psychiatrist reported that 14% of members had reported cases of children attempting suicide whilst waiting for a bed. And just recently there was an inquest into a 16 year old girl, regularly admitted to A&E with self-inflicted injuries who was discovered hanged only hours after her latest visit. Treating her physical symptoms was not enough. She was not simply ‘having a bad day.’ True to form the government has spent more time arguing over who is responsible for the crisis and who is going to pay for it than going about the business of bringing about change. The fact that they have not commissioned any research on the problem in over 11 years (the previous report incidentally found that 1 in 10 youngsters had a diagnosable mental problem) is quite shocking.

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