What Parents Say About Children's Mental Health Services
As a volunteer on our Parents Helpline, Annie hears first-hand the difficulties that parents face getting access to Children’s Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
As a volunteer on the YoungMinds Parents Helpline I hear from desperate parents every week.
The biggest issue for parents is the difficulty obtaining a CAMHS assessment for their child. The majority of parents know when a child is in need of professional help. Accessing that help is increasingly difficult.
Parents will try and access CAMHS through their GP, child’s school or by self-referral. If the GP or school agrees with the parent and makes the referral the waiting time to see a CAMHS professional for an initial assessment can be agony. Parents can be left in limbo for many weeks or even months waiting for the appointment. I will often be asked by parents why the waiting times are so long?
I explain to parents that waiting times will depend on where they live. I’ve heard from parents who’ve moved areas and find that the CAMHS organisation where they’ve moved to operates in a completely different way from their old town. Children who may have been making progress then run the risk of slipping back.
Most parents instinctively realise that early intervention is key in stopping any mental health issue becoming intractable. The issue of eating disorders is a key illustration of this. The lack of inpatient care for teenagers is acute. I’ve spoken to parents whose children are sent to eating disorder units many miles from their home town. I’ve even been told of children from England having to be treated in Scotland. The impact of this on the young person’s recovery and on their family cannot be underestimated.
Parents cannot understand why CAMHS cannot operate in a broadly similar way wherever they are in the country. I’ve heard parents say that this Government promised an increase in funding to CAMHS. From those using and working in CAMHS, it doesn’t seem as if that increase in funds has been seen.
The shortage of qualified child and adolescent metal health professionals is becoming acute. Ironically this is happening at a time when parenting is becoming more and more challenging. Whilst there is more talk about the importance of good mental health the Government need to show parents that there is a plan to train more of the professionals needed and to create a joined up service that is easier to access.
A parent whose child had made a serious suicide attempt and was waiting for a CAMHS appointment said “if my child appeared in A&E with an acute physical illness that needed on-going urgent treatment they wouldn’t be sent home to wait”. The utter helplessness that parents feel when a child’s mental health has reached rock bottom needs to be acknowledged not by words but by an increase in funding, training and co-ordination of NHS mental health services.
Have your say on the Government's plans for CAMHS
Last December, the Government published a Green Paper laying out their plans for children and young people's mental health services. Until 2 March, the Government are asking for your opinions on the proposals in an online consultation.
We've had a look and pulled out what we think are the main questions to answer. Have a look at our guidance on the consultation, and make sure you have your say.