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World Mental Health Day: research recap

10/10/2018

This week has seen a flurry of new research on children and young people’s mental health, with reports published by the Education Policy Institute, National Audit Office and more. On World Mental Health Day (10 October), Dr Patrick Johnston, Director of Learning and Practice at Place2Be recaps the key findings so far. 

Education Policy Institute

Published on Sunday 7 October, a new report from the Education Policy Institute provides results from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to providers of specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in England.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The number of referrals to specialist CAMHS has increased by 26% over the last 5 years
  • Between a fifth and a quarter of children referred to specialist services are deemed inappropriate for specialist treatment, most commonly because the young person’s condition was not serious enough to meet eligibility criteria or that their condition was not suitable for specialist CAMHS intervention
  • The average median waiting time reported in 2017-18 was 34 days to assessment and 60 days to treatment. Maximum waiting times to assessment in 2017-18 averaged 267 days, and to treatment, 345 days.

 

The report also recommends that the wider focus must be on taking demand out of the system, including “ensuring access to high quality early intervention services in all areas” and “ensuring a well-staffed and experienced teaching and support workforce in all schools to support pupils with additional needs.”

Read the full Education Policy Institute report

 

Parentkind

On Monday 8 October, national charity Parentkind published the results of a poll of 1,500 parents from across the UK.

The key findings were:

    • 3 in 5 parents are worried about their child’s emotional well-being and mental health at school
    • More than half (53%) of all respondents were concerned that the school’s high expectations were putting pressure on their child
    • Around a fifth of parents said their child had suffered from depression. More than a quarter (27%) of these respondents said they were not satisfied with the way their child was helped by the school in this regard
    • When asked for the top three attributes of a successful school, most parents said happiness (55%), followed by children enjoying learning (44%) and children learning positive behaviours such as resilience and self-confidence (41%).

 

One of the charity’s recommendations was that schools should ensure parents have access to up to date and timely advice and resources to help them support children with mental health issues.

Read the full Parentkind report

 

National Audit Office

On Tuesday 9 October, the National Audit Office published a report examining whether the government is on track to meet its ambitions for improving mental health services for children and young people.

Key findings include:

  • The government has started to tackle issues of parity of esteem between physical and mental health services for children and young people, but there is a long way to go to ensure equal access to care.
  • There are weaknesses and unreliability in the government’s data which could undermine its understanding of its progress – in particular, the NHS cannot reliably track progress against one of its key targets to treat an additional 70,000 children and young people. 
  • An additional £1.4 billion was committed to children and young people’s mental health services between 2016-17 and 2020-21. NHS England cannot be sure all the additional funding has been spent as intended by clinical commissioning groups, although it has tried to strengthen controls in 2018-19. 
  • New government estimates, expected late 2018, of the number of children and young people with a mental health condition are likely to be higher than previously estimated, which will make it even harder for the government to achieve its long-term ambitions.

 

The report recommends that the government should “set out the scale of the needs of young people requiring mental health services, building on the new prevalence data when available and identify what work and resources are needed to implement its 2015 strategy in full.”

Read the full National Audit Office report

 

The need for early support in schools

Some might question why we even need a World Mental Health Day in 2018. Surely, we all know enough about the importance of mental health at this stage?

It’s true that huge progress has been made to increase general awareness of mental health and to help reduce the stigma and myth surrounding it, through campaigns such as Heads Together and Time to Change, but unfortunately there is a long way to go to ensure that children and young people actually get the support that they need.

Half of lifelong mental health conditions are established by age 14, and all of this new research again emphasises the need for high quality, early intervention. The combination of an (expected) increase in the prevalence of mental health conditions, with the large numbers of children and young people deemed ineligible for CAMHS support, and the concerns expressed by parents about the support that schools can offer is creating a perfect storm with children and young people at its centre.

Schools must not be seen as the scapegoat; School Leaders and Teachers should not be expected to be mental health experts. Schools do have a unique opportunity to play in the promotion of positive mental health and creating an environment which supports the development of the full child not just their academic potential.

Only when we start to take a long-term view which focuses on prevention and early intervention can we possibly hope to reach the majority of children and young people who need support. The current approach of prioritising specialist services above early intervention and prevention will not alone improve the mental health of children and young people.

This blog was written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the organisation.

 

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