Despite the collective efforts of schools, social workers and hospitals, children and parents speak of reduced child mental health services, unable to help patients until their condition becomes critical. 20 readers talked to the Guardian about their experiences. ACP member, Stuart Hannah was one of them.
The Guardian asked for people's experiences of children’s mental health services in England and received responses from parents, teachers and young people themselves.
James Downs, 27, was a high-achieving young boy and at 14 he developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety about his appearance. It got to the point that it would take him ages to get ready and he kept skipping school without telling anyone why. After a year of doing this, he told his parents and the school the reasons behind his truancy and was eventually referred to children’s mental health services. He was seen quickly but says the quality of treatment wasn’t very good. He felt like they wanted to treat him for OCD without talking about the deeper issues going on. He said, "I know there are more specialist services in place for treating eating disorders now, but I also know there are cuts to CAMHs and what’s on offer is quite patchy. This makes me worry for other young people as I don’t want them to go through what I did."
Stuart Hannah talked about how he'd worked in different child and adolescent mental health services in London and the south-east as well as the Yorkshire region since 2003, when he left social care to specialise in child mental health. He said that the work is undertaken in a context of perpetual change and economic uncertainty. "Every service I have been in has suffered from collective low morale and very high levels of uncertainty about the future. To a degree, a traumatised workforce is trying to work with a traumatised population and this is a worrying cocktail."
He asks whether CAMHS should be completely rethought and stripped back to basics but supports the emphasis on multi-agency collaboration which he says, "makes good sense as does matching service provision closely to local need, identified via robust data collection."
He concludes by saying that "the collective wellbeing of children and families in our society directly correlates with economic and social realities and their impact on how people, particularly parents, feel. Now more than ever we need to encourage empathy in all human relationships, and in communities underpinned by core values of respect, compassion, tolerance and equal opportunities for all. Properly funded and creatively delivered, CAMHS can make an active contribution to empathy development in individuals, families and organisations, but it needs to be thought of as part of a broader picture of how we want our society to look in a decade’s time."
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