Kristy Adams is a director of the company. Lead Health and Happiness Lessons for Six to 16 Year Olds for Online Refresher School @InvictaAcademy.
The Government invested an additional £ 1.4 billion in mental health services for children between 2015 and 2020 following the recommendations of the Future in mind 2015 report. CAMHS currently accounts for 0.7 percent of NHS spending and about 6.4 percent of mental health spending.
CAMHS is mental health services for children and adolescents. If your child has severe mental health problems and is self-harming or suicidal, your school or primary care physician will contact the CAMHS team for an assessment and assistance for your child.
In the UK we have 14 million children out of a total population of just over 68 million, with children making up around 20 per cent of the population; however, CAMHS only receives 6.4 percent of mental health spending. The numbers do not add up, the UK is not alone in this fact.
Katie Gibbons wrote in The times this week on research published in the Evidence-based mental health daily. “Investigators accused high-income nations of failing vulnerable children and said they could ‘afford to do better.’
“The authors analyzed data from 14 studies in 11 countries (the US, Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Great Britain, Israel, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, and Taiwan) published between 2003 and 2020.”
The studies involved 61,545 children. The authors from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver said that “only 44.2 percent of children with mental disorders received any services.” The findings showed that “there are robust services for children’s physical health problems such as cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases in most of these countries.” The research showed “an invisible crisis in children’s mental health.”
Two families I know well have teenagers who have sought help from UK CAMHS teams in their area. The service in both cases was excellent; Highly qualified experts treated both students, who have not only survived but thrived. For those who qualify for help, the service is first class, but what about children who do not meet the threshold for treatment?
Sparkling Christmas tree, December 2020, mulled wine on the counter and after so long in masks, lockdowns and fear of losing my job, peace seemed like a ray of light at my friend Josie’s house. Only to have it shattered hours later when his 15-year-old daughter found her sister trying to commit suicide.
No warning, no race, ambulance call. The eldest daughter is 18 years old. Maisy (not her real name) was admitted to the hospital. Neither of her parents could accompany her and she was released the next morning at 7 a.m. One follow-up phone call and that was the end of the mental health support. Gareth Southgate did a better job supporting his footballers than the mental health team with a suicidal teenager. The suicidal teenager had undiagnosed autism.
Another friend, Katie, has a 14-year-old daughter, Bella, who collapsed over communication from the government about how she would get her GCSEs. What takes them? If her teachers were testing, would she get the qualifications necessary for a place in college?
Poor communication from the government meant that teachers and schools had no idea what was going on. Bella’s anxiety and fear became more serious as she considered moving from school to a new sixth grade. Bella hurt herself, didn’t sleep, and refused to leave her room. Katie listened to her daughter and contacted the school for help. CAMHS denied Bella help; she didn’t qualify because she wasn’t trying to kill herself.
Katie took her daughter’s concerns seriously and found a private counselor and doctor. Bella was diagnosed with autism and, thanks to the help of professionals and her family, she is doing well now. Katie says she was able to enlist Bella’s help because they used money that would have been spent on a vacation, but what about families in identical circumstances who can’t pay?
Before the pandemic, I visited an elementary school where I led an assembly on democracy. I met the super efficient director before my talk. Having completed hundreds of school visits over the years, as the director of a learning board of directors, I can spot a well-managed school 20 paces away.
This was all singing, all dancing with a buzz of learning and a joy to be inside. I asked the director my killer question. ‘What would you like the government to do differently to improve the lives of its students?’ His response was instantaneous: fund CAMHS properly.
The week before, one of his students had injured himself with a compass. Because the girl had not broken her skin, she did not qualify for assistance from CAMHS. The problem arose from the girl’s struggle with undiagnosed dyslexia. His parents had to pay privately for a professional counselor.
This started a research project for me. I found three charities that could help schools with trained child counselors and funding. Charities have partnered with churches and religious groups to provide money and resources. I communicated this information to schools and political leaders in a local council.
I believe in personal responsibility, I am a conservative and I believe in providing resources to all organizations / charities to solve problems. But here’s the crux of the matter: Currently CAMHS doesn’t have enough resources to help non-suicidal children in crisis (and it doesn’t have the money for preventive work) and that’s just not good enough.
It makes sense to invest in mental health for young people because they are valuable, the future of our country and the problems will not go away. In fact, the things they are struggling with will carry over into their adult life. One in three adult mental health conditions is directly related to adverse childhood experiences and the NHS will continue to need to provide care for people into adulthood, which comes at a cost.
If we want to save money, let’s treat patients while they are children. It makes perfect sense to invest in CAMHS so that it can offer a more comprehensive service, including preventive care. Part of the child mental health service should include the identification of autism in those under 18 years of age (and, since girls are often not helped, the identification of girls). Fifty percent of clinical commissioning groups were unable to account for the additional money the government gave them between 2015 and 2020 and how it was spent. Greater responsibility is required.
Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver concluded that governments “would need to substantially increase spending on children’s mental health budgets.” This is particularly urgent given the documented increases in children’s mental health needs since Covid-19. “
Here’s my call to action: Identify dyslexia and autism more accurately and earlier to produce better results, and increase the budget for CAHMS so that services are commensurate with the percentage of children in the total population. Both will provide better service to our children and cost the country less money in the long run.
(Names have been changed to protect identities).