Vulnerable children ‘re-traumatised by incompetent services’

A recent YoungMinds report ‘Beyond Adversity’ found that schools, social workers, police and NHS staff are among those inadvertently causing children to relive traumas because of “fundamental misunderstandings” about how to interpret their behaviour.

Two out of five victims of childhood sex abuse experience mental health issues and are 17 times more likely to experience a “psychotic episode”, according to YoungMinds. Over half of LGBT youth report deliberately harming themselves, and 44 per cent have considered suicide, according to Metro’s Life Chances report. The report concludes that “children who have been neglected, abused, bereaved or faced prejudice may communicate their feelings by being aggressive, self-destructive, withdrawn or highly sexualised.” Yet as a result of this behaviour “they are often treated as ‘the problem’. This means the cause of their trauma is never addressed and they don’t receive the mental health care they need.” As Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England argued: “Children coping with the emotional and psychological trauma of abuse may present challenging behaviour which a range of professionals may not see beyond.”

Deanna Neilson, Action for Children’s Head of Safeguarding, said the report highlights the "lack of a coordinated approach" from professionals. She told The Independent: "Young people are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, race hate and homophobic hate crimes and the impact cannot be underestimated.  Childline has reported that their counselling for suicidal young people is at its highest level and our professional approaches in social work, psychiatry and other agencies need to move away from a solely clinical diagnosis model to dealing with the roots of young peoples’ traumatic behaviour.”

This lack of care has been echoed by Anne Longfield: “Children who have been abused or neglected are at greater risk of mental health problems but they often don’t get the support they need. As Longfield had discovered in an earlier report she had carried out-70,000 children referred for mental health support in England in 2015 were sent away without help, including some who had attempted suicide.

YoungMinds has called on services to fast-track mental health support for children who’ve had traumatic experiences, for understanding of behaviour to improve and for the government to establish an expert group to ensure consistent treatment across the country.

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said in a statement: “The last thing vulnerable children need is to be re-traumatised by services that should be helping them. If a young person who has been neglected reacts to their feelings by being aggressive at school, and is excluded, it reinforces the neglect and low self-worth that they originally experienced.”

However, Alistair Burt, Minister for Mental Health, said in response to the report: "We have launched the biggest transformation in young people's mental health, funded by £1.4billion over this Parliament. This is one of the greatest investments the sector has seen, supporting a five-year plan with backing across the health system.” He argued that “local NHS services must follow (the governments) lead by increasing the amount they spend on mental health and making sure the right care is always available.”

Yet, with services been placed under a great deal of pressure and combined with a lack of funding, such action is becoming increasingly hard to implement. 

To read the full article by The Independent click here