Thank you to all constituents who have contacted me about child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
One in four people will experience a mental ill-health at some point in their life. With half of all adult mental health illnesses develop before the age of 14, supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention.
Sadly too many children are unable to access support early, resulting in more young people presenting to A&E having self-harmed or experienced suicidal thoughts after their mental health problem has reached crisis point.
Children’s mental health has declined most sharply during the pandemic, with large rises in both common and severe mental illness rates. Yet only a third of young people with a diagnosable mental health condition are able to access NHS support.
Two-thirds of NHS mental health trust leaders surveyed in May said they were unable to meet demand for CAMHS. And for children and young people who are referred, just one in five start treatment within four weeks.
Without the much-needed investment, I am concerned that CAMHS will continue to be a postcode lottery and children and young people will continue to go without the support they need.
A long-term recovery plan for children, young people and their families is required if we are going to address problems that have arisen in lockdown. This will require investment in social care and mental health services, with ring-fenced funding to ensure money reaches the frontline, as well as excellent learning and extra social and emotional support.
Positive mental health and wellbeing can be pivotal for children to reach their fullest potential. I have long-called for better early access to mental health support for children and young people, including on-site qualified counsellors in schools, to ensure accessible pathways to mental health support.
A proactive approach between education, health and local authorities is needed, with a greater focus on prevention and early intervention. The Government must also address long-standing gaps in the mental health workforce to ensure young people receive the support and treatment they need.
I will continue to make the case that parity for mental health and promoting children and young people’s wellbeing must be a priority for the Government as we recover from COVID-19.