The BBC has revealed that referrals to child mental health units from primary schools for children aged 11 and under have risen by almost 50 per cent.
The referrals rose from 21,125 to 31,531 over a three year period. In addition, 7 trusts who provided the data via Freedom of Information requests said that they had rejected an individual child for treatment at least 5 times over the past 4 years, and that some pupils spent more than a year on waiting lists to receive treatment at 12 different trusts.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chairwoman of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists responded to the reports by saying “Services for children have been historically underfunded, meaning they are unable to meet increased demand.”
“The government’s aim to provide mental health support in all schools within the next 10 years will be too little, too late for many children who need that help now.”
The headteacher of Pennine Way Primary School in Carlisle, Sue Blair, detailed how she had seen self harm, pupils struggling with cyber bullying and eating disorders in her pupils before they had even reached secondary school. She described the crisis as “acute”.
A further FOI request by the BBC also found that 4 pupils have attempted suicide on primary school grounds over the last 4 years.
Jake Mills, founder of Chasing the Stigma, the Hub of Hope and the Ambassador of Hope training programme, said: “We are committed to tackling the stigma surrounding mental health, but it is difficult when those who are finally opening up and trying to access treatment are unable to do so.”
“The government needs to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to child mental health funding. To have children waiting over one year for treatment and attempting suicide on school grounds in a national emergency that must be tackled by real-terms, ring-fenced funding that is fit for purpose, and a plan that can be implemented moving forward.
“This is not the first time the crisis within child and adolescent mental health funding has been revealed — so when will action finally be taken to help suffering children? What sort of a society do we live in where children under 11 are languishing on waiting lists for years after having a mental health crisis?
“Chasing the Stigma created the Hub of Hope for exactly this reason — to provide individuals and parents with a simple resource to find treatment near them. The rest of the mental health sector is stepping up to provide as much support for those who need it as we can — but we need increased support from central and local government to tackle this national crisis of poor mental health among our children”.
Earlier this year, Chasing the Stigma teamed up Liverpool’s Radio City Talk for a special episode of Mental Health Monday, to talk about suicide in young people. As part of the episode, 226 were displayed on the steps of Liverpool’s St George’s Hall to represent the number of school children who dies by suicide in the UK in 2017.
If you feel as though you need to talk to someone, text HOPE to 85258 or visit the Hub of Hope to find relevant services near you.