Around 60% of children go untreated for mental healthcare, even after being referred

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A&E admission for self-harm have been rising every year since 2010

About 60% of children under 18 who have been referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by their GP are not getting the treatment they require, according to research by Spurgeons children’s charity.

The charity obtained data from over 30 NHS trusts through Freedom of Information requests between 2010-2016. The new figures also revealed a worrying gender divide, with more than three-quarters (77%) of A&E admissions for self-harm coming from girls.

As a response, Spurgeons has begun an ‘innovative programme for young people’ that seeks to combat the rise in self-harm. The charity’s Family Intervention for Self Harm (FISH) programme will identify and help young people who do not have a formal mental health diagnosis, which means they are not able to access services such as CAMHS.

Jag Basra, Assistant Psychologist and Lead of FISH, said: ‘It has become increasingly apparent that many young people that self-harm do not have a diagnosed specific mental health condition, leaving this particular group without some form of support provision.

‘The facts are harrowing. At least four young people in every secondary school class are now self-harming. Within the last decade we’ve seen a considerable rise in the range of mental health issues impacting young people, in part due to social media pressures and the ongoing stigma towards speaking about our mental health.’

The figures come at a time when A&E admissions for self-harm by young people have risen by 50% over the past five years, marking the latest in a seven-year stretch of rising admissions. As such, the government has recently committed to dedicating more resources to mental health services to tackle the alarming rise.

‘For some children and young people, self harming can be used as a coping strategy to manage heightened emotions, therefore increasing the risk of recurring self harm incidents.

‘Supporting young people and their families as early as possible to explore and understand the complexities and impact surrounding self harm is vital for their ongoing wellbeing,’ said Jag Basra.

Spurgeons hopes this can be done through their new FISH programme, which would have the effect of helping young people who suffer from self-harm early, while relieving pressure on the NHS. Under the programme, GPs, schools and social workers can refer those in risk to the FISH programme, thus reducing the number of direct entrants to CAMHS.

Ross Hendry, CEO of Spurgeons, said: ‘We know these are hard times and NHS budgets have many competing priorities. We believe that charities like ours can play a crucial role in helping to safeguard these vulnerable young people. FISH will ease the pressure on CAMHS, enabling them to increase the rates of young people they treat who are at crisis point.’

Jas Basra added: ‘Ultimately the long term implications of self-harm are frightening, and in some cases fatal, and it is for this reason that addressing self harm needs to be a major public health priority.’

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I agree the children seem to be left to their parents to manage. once seen do not continued to be followed up if they are lucky to obtain an an appointment at CAHMS
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As a community nurse working in a busy CAMHS team, I find it disheartening that CAMHS teams across the country (if this is indeed true) are turning young people away who don't have a diagnosable mental health disorder. If you take out the number of children and young people who are referred for ADHD or ASD assessment, I would suggest that we see far more clients experiencing "emotional difficulties" than those that would meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health disorder. We are well aware that most (not some) children and young people use self harm as a way of coping with difficult emotions, and that self harm rarely indicates any genuine suicidal intent or mental illness. We have a dedicated CAMHS crisis team who will see every young person that presents with self harm in A&E and will either carry out a short term intervention or refer on to the community CAMHS team if it is felt that longer term support is necessary and is not based on whether the young person meets the criteria for a mental illness.

We would consider that supporting young people and working with partner agencies to prevent the development of mental illness is as important as supporting those who do meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. We are aware that personality continues to develop through childhood and adolescence and into adulthood and that factors such as temperament, social environment, experience of education, experience of abuse/trauma and family difficulties have a significant part to play in whether a young person goes on to develop mental health problems in later life. The focus of CAMHS, regardless of your role within the team should be early intervention and multi-agency working and if young people are being refused access because they don't have a diagnosable mental health disorder, then I fear this is sadly missing the point of what we should be doing and therefore failing children and young people.
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