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Children's mental health in crisis

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CAMHS in crisis Navigating the mental health process for children and young people is a formidable task

Conversations between the generations are a strange thing. I’m left equally baffled by my dad’s belief that Stanley Baxter is the greatest comedic genius of the last 100 years, and my sons’ fascination with YouTube videos of Fortnite.

But our failure to understand each other can also have serious consequences. I was talking to a friend recently who had just run a writing workshop for 15-year-olds. Asked to list their biggest worry, a majority had cited their mental health. For those of us who left school a decade or three ago, this is foreign territory and perhaps starts to explain the threadbare state of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

As we reported previously, CAMHS is a postcode lottery. London spends the most, the equivalent of £17.88 a child, compared to £5 elsewhere. But these figures don’t tell the full story. Even in better funded areas, parents can tell you of 6-month waiting lists, wrangles over resources and an increasing number of young people who impact the NHS under the strip lights of A&E long before they have moved up the queue for counselling.

Ministers have thrown an extra £1.4 billion at the problem, but commissioners face what economists call a supply side problem. In particular, a huge shortfall of mental health nurses which cannot be fixed quickly, and so the evidence is that CAMHS funds are being diverted into other areas.

This won’t do. We need a focussed workforce strategy and joined up working between schools, local authorities and CCGs to fix this issue, before these conditions metastasise into life-long adult ones. We also need to find the causes for this rise in demand for CAMHS. One generation is crying out for help,

it’s time they were heard.

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