Children’s mental health services in crisis

Children's mental health

A survey of 1,001 GPs across the UK who have sought urgent help for under-18s with mental health problems indicates that children’s mental health services have deteriorated over the past six years. 95% of the GPs surveyed said that mental health services for children and young people are critically failing. The survey also found that young people who are anxious, depressed, or self-harming are now “routinely being denied help”. There are many drivers of mental ill-health, of course, and no quick fix. But knowing more about mental health and wellbeing has to be part of any long-term solution. This is what is distinctive about the LBL approach.

The survey was conducted for the youth mental health charity stem4. Its press release includes quotes from GPs such as “worse and worse”, “CAMHS is unsafe” and “under-resourced, inadequate, and dangerous”. CAMHS refers to child and adolescent mental health services. The survey suggests that there is a two-year waiting list just to be seen.

It is truly shocking to learn from this survey of GPs’ experiences of dealing with CAMHS services that so many vulnerable young people in desperate need of urgent help with their mental health are being forced to wait for so long – up to two years – for care they need immediately.

Dr Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist and founder of stem4

More evidence of a crisis in children’s mental health

In February we blogged about a warning from the Prince’s Trust about the state of young people’s mental wellbeing, including low levels of confidence about the future and high levels of anxiety and feelings of burnout.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported in February that there had been a 77% rise in the number of children needing specialist treatment for severe mental health crisis. There were more than 400,000 referrals of under-18s for specialist care for issues such as suicidal thoughts and self-harm between April and October 2021.

And back in October 2021 we highlighted a report from NHS Digital which suggested that rates of probable mental disorders among 6- to 16-year-olds were as high as one in six.

The stem4 children’s mental health charity

stem4 describes itself as a charity that “promotes positive mental health in teenagers and those who support them including their families and carers, education professionals, as well as school nurses and GPs through the provision of mental health education, resilience strategies and early intervention.”

The Education section of the stem4 website includes access for teachers to a large selection of excellent resources. There is also an online educational resource aimed at students directly. It is called Head Ed Light and is designed to enable young people to learn about mental health topics independently. They can also access free mental health apps to help them look after their mental health.

The stem4 website also includes an excellent collection of blogs covering topics such as using nature to improve your mental health, the importance of sleep and Obesity Awareness Week.

Life-Based Learning and mental health

Life-Based Learning (LBL) aims to prepare children and young people for the challenges of modern life. One of the most important challenges is the ability to manage our mental health. LBL offers an approach to looking after our children and young people that not only addresses acute and immediate problems but also puts in place a bold strategy to promote future wellbeing.

We need well-funded support systems – turning the fine words about taking mental health as seriously as we do physical health – into something real and accessible. But we need to be proactive as well as reactive. There are many drivers of mental ill-health, of course, and no quick fix. But knowing more about mental health and wellbeing has to be part of any long-term solution. This is what is distinctive about the LBL approach.

LBL advocates teaching children from an early age about their emotions and how to manage them, much improving their chances of growing up happy, comfortable in themselves and emotionally resilient. They also need to have free and regular access to activities that promote good mental health. Our blogs regularly highlight the benefits to children’s mental health and wellbeing of regular physical exercise, outdoor and nature-based experiences and participation in activities that involve them in positive change.

Read More About Mental Health

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