'The children are our future'  

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and, as part of this, we wanted to talk about the impact of mental ill health on our children and young people.  

The new 'pandemic'  

 
 

"It isn't 'Oh mental health will be the next pandemic'. It is the pandemic right now...What is that pandemic and how do you deal with it? It's just like we're chickens running blind." (Ruby Wax, 2021) 

In July 2021, studies found that 1 in 6 Children and Young People have a diagnosable mental health problem, up from 1 in 9 in 2017. In 2023, this increased again to 1 in 5 - equal to 6 children in every classroom. That means that, statistically, 6 children in every classroom will be experiencing a mental health issue.  
 
A & E attendances for Children and Young People under 18 with a psychiatric condition tripled between 2010 and 2019.  
 
Suicide was the leading cause of death for young people aged between 5-34 years old in 2019.  
 
And nearly half of young people aged 17-19 with a mental health condition has self-harmed or attempted suicide.  
 
We find these statistics absolutely staggering, expecially in the light of the fact that only 1 in 3 children and young people with a mental health condition accessed the NHS care and treatment that they need and 76% of parents report that their children's mental health has deteriorated while waiting for CAMHS.  
 
*Figures obtained from Young Minds 
 

So what does the future hold? With less that 1 in 3* children and young people accessing the care and support they need when they experience mental health problems, many children develop even more entrenched and serious conditions, such as eating disorders and long term illness.   A recent report by the Children's Commissioner highlights the extremely long waits that children are facing in accessing the care they need.   Recently, Cara Davis from West Sussex County Council admitted that "We know that current need completely outstrips the resources we have."  Our recent survey of people who work with Children and Young People, found that accessing mental health treatment continues to be either 'difficult' or 'extremely difficult' in our area.  We know that statistically, 50% of adult mental health conditions have developed by the age of 14, with over 75% having developed by the age of 18.* And yet, early intervention and health services for our young people are simply not available to most.  

 
 
The impact of mental ill health is that many children are unable to access education or will have their education severely disrupted at a key developmental time in their lives. Development of social, emotional and cognitive function in the brains of our young people relies on them being able to acces education and social activities, such as spending time with friends and getting involved in sports and other activities. But children and young people who struggle with anxiety and/ or low mood will find it extremely challenging to get involved in these things and many find themselves shut away at home and isolated. At this key time in their lives, waiting months or even years for support is simply not an option. By the time they get the help they need, many young people find that their mental health condition has become entrenched, or has worsened. Some may even have hit crisis point and some sadly die by suicide.  
 
We have heard from government ministers and others in recent times about the huge impact that mental ill health is having on the workforce in this country. Figures reportedly show that a significant number of those receiving health-related benefits are in their 20s and are either unable to work or their ability to work is limited by chronic mental health conditions.  
 
Many will see this as our young people being 'snowflakes' or 'lazy', but we need to ask ourselves - what is really going on? A range of issues now face our young people, not least the 24/7 nature of our society and the never-ending stream of information. But there has also been an ever-decreasing amount of funding in children's services, including schools - the very services that support our children's development and help to prevent the issues we now see. Our young people are struggling and they deserve better.  
 
 

Let's #changethestory   In a recent survey of professionals working with children and young people, our respondents told us that more than 70% of the children and young people they work with who had experienced mental ill health would have benefitted from being able to access private therapy.   This is what they had to say about the impact of being able to access the right support early on:   "This support provided swiftly can stop escalation and allow the young person to grow..."  "This stops situations getting worse and allows students to move forward with their life and education quicker."  "It can make life possible for the young people and prevent severe self harm and potentially suicide."  Access to early intervention has been shown time and again to make the difference that young people need, helping them to build the skills, strategies and resilience to manage their emotions and the difficult situations they are sometimes dealing with. Early intervention prevents mental health conditions becoming entrenched and impacting on our children's futures. Early intervention prevents children being out of education and later down the line, out of the workforce. Early intervention gives our children hope and a future.   We believe the children are our future and that they should be given a future to look forward to.   This is why we continue to do what we do - raising the money to pay for private therapy for children and young people in our area so that they can access early support for mental ill health. You can help us to #changethestory - find out more HERE   

 
Together, we can #changethestory 
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