The chronic lack of provision of child and adolescent mental health services has been repeatedly highlighted by reports from the charity YoungMinds.
The failure of government and NHS England to invest in supportive services ignores statistical evidence showing the scale of the problem, with 1 in 8 children having a diagnosable mental health disorder, and 1 in 6 young adults (aged 16-24) showing symptoms of a common mental disorder such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
The death toll is rising, with suicide the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19 in 2017.
And where mental health problems continue, they are life limiting: people with severe mental health illnesses tend to die 15-20 years earlier than those without.
Target of 35%
In 2016 NHS England’s document Implementing the Five Year Forward View set an uninspiring target of reaching 35% of children and young people with mental health needs by 2020
In January, NHS England’s Long Term Plan claimed that “access is rising in line with our plans and, in 2017/18, around 30.5% of children and young people then estimated to have a mental health condition were able to benefit from treatment and support, up from an estimated 25% two years earlier.”
But the gaps are still enormous.
YoungMinds asked more than 2,700 young people about their experiences of looking for support for their mental health: fewer than one in ten (9%) said that they found it easy to get support, and only 6% of young people who had looked for support agreed that there is enough support – 81% disagreed.
Of those who had received support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), many had experienced delays at every stage: 44% said that they found it hard to get a referral, 61% said that there was a long wait between referral and assessment, and almost a third (32%) said there was a long wait between assessment and treatment.
Only 11% said that they had received support from CAMHS and didn’t face any barriers.
GPs can’t cope
A YoungMinds survey of 1,008 GPs published in early November found that 90% of GPs had seen a rise in the last three years of young people seeking mental health help, but over three-quarters of them (77%) felt community support for child mental health problems was not good enough, and almost the same number did not feel confident that their referrals to CAMHS would result in treatment.
Mental health charity Mind revealed the latest figures from NHS Digital show a big increase since 2017-18 in the number of cancelled appointments by CAMHS.
175,094 appointments in CAMHS were cancelled between August 2018 and July 2019 – an increase of 34,767 (20%) from the previous year.
One in five
Only one in five of the GPs surveyed by YoungMinds said they had received enough training to handle mental health issues in young people: 59% said they hadn’t received enough training.
Almost half of the GPs said they often acted beyond their competency by supporting young people with mental health problems.
The Guardian has highlighted NHS figures that show average waiting times to access CAMHS in England have fallen slightly, from 57 days in 2017-18 to 53 days last year. However, that does not include under-18s who were referred but still waiting at the end of the year to hear from the NHS as to when they would be seen.
The number of young people referred to CAMHS rose by 18% from 343,386 in 2017-18 to 405,479 in 2018-19.
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