Are we failing our children?

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It is perhaps no surprise to learn that there has been a startling rise in the number of young people being admitted to hospital for self-harm, depression, eating disorders and a whole host of other psychological disorders. These numbers are more than double what they were five years ago and this trend is getting worse. Perhaps worrying of all, mental health services are unable to cope. Many are calling it a crisis, one which has been further exacerbated by the recent cuts in early intervention services (three quarters of local authorities have reduced funding, some by as much as 30%). Families are being forced to struggle on until things deteriorate to the point where they end up at A&E.

The Times newspaper has been extremely vocal in its condemnation of this woeful state of affairs, reporting that official figures record that only 6% of the NHS mental health budget goes on services for children and teenagers. They have championed a manifesto written by Tanya Byron, a leading clinical psychologist and government adviser, in collaboration with other experts from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Great Ormond Street and the Young Minds charity, calling for the government to conduct nationwide research on the problem (statistics are currently over a decade old) and to provide more funding for intervention services and emergency beds for children. The problem regarding beds is a significant one. 1 in 6 children are currently having to travel 100 miles or more to find a bed on a psychiatric ward. Finding one nearby is the closest thing to a happy ending in this whole debacle. A report by the Times report sheds some light on the extent of the problem. Last year 236 children suffering from mental breakdowns were held in police cells because there was no other place to put them. A further 355 were treated in adult psychiatric wards (a 50% rise on the year before).

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