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Government will ‘fail a generation’ over inadequate mental health services

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Under the green paper, schools will be required to appoint a mental health lead

A report from two select committees has declared the government’s strategy to improve mental health services for children as inadequate.

The Education and Health and Social Care committees have described the green paper as lacking in ambition and having failed to take into account the UK’s most vulnerable groups.

‘Young people are falling through the gaps and not receiving the services they need as they enter adulthood,’ said the report.

‘The government’s strategy lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it. The narrow scope does not take several vulnerable groups into account.’

While the paper outlines that schools and colleges will be required to appoint a mental health lead to support students, the committee highlighted that there is nothing in place to help students who have been excluded from school.

The report also noted that the slow rollout of plans, which will only reach somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the UK by 2022/2023, will provide no help to the majority who are in need of it.

‘The green paper is just not ambitious enough and will leave so many children without the care they need. It needs to go much further in considering how to prevent mental health difficulties in the first place,’ said Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health and social care select committee.

In particular, the report highlighted the pressure of tests such as SATs and GCSEs on young people and children’s mental health as the ‘adverse effects of the current exam system’.

With pressure piling on an already overstretched teaching workforce, it is feared that the £300 million funding earmarked by the green paper may not be enough .

Some experts are worried that schools may reduce their own mental health budgets and rely government finances instead, as well as a lack of preventative actions which need to be put in place.

‘We’ve recently heard from parents whose children are feeling suicidal, who’ve been told: “Come back when your child’s made a plan”. This simply shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,’ said Sarah Brennan, chief executive of Young Minds, a charity for children’s mental health.

‘If the government is serious about improving children’s mental health services, it needs to guarantee increased, long‑term funding and place more emphasis on preventing mental health problems from developing in the first place.’

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I could not agree more with the above article. Prior to coming into Mental Health Nursing I was a secondary school teacher for 26 years - the experiences I have had in both professions leaves me in no doubt about the seriousness of the current situation. The stress levels created by the government are not only detrimental to staff well-being but are having a serious impact on children. Working as I do in A&E Mental Health Liaison I am seeing this at first hand, far too often. The resources available are far from adequate and 'yes' people do get told that the symptoms shown by their children and the thoughts expressed by adults and children alike, are not serious enough!!! We may not want to over medicalise the situation but we do need to use preventative strategies. Prevention needs face to face contact and time but it is ultimately cost effective.
I would back any move to bring appropriate Mental health support and understanding to schools. Let us look at what we teach children and how we enable them to deal with stress, growing up and pressure.
This is an area that, to my mind, needs to be prioritised and ultimately it will have good effect on adult mental health.
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