“I didn’t consider myself sick enough”: Crisis in children’s mental health services

Mia was just 10 years old when she and her family knew she needed mental health support.

But their attempts to get help were met with delays and rejections that led to her condition deteriorating so severely that it nearly cost Mia her life.

“I wasn’t sick enough, I was told I was fine and nothing was wrong,” Mia explains. “I told them ‘this is not normal’ and they didn’t listen.

But Mia struggled. Her mental health was deteriorating and would eventually reach a crisis point.

“Until I was 12, I was self-harming. I felt like some days I couldn’t get through the day, but I’m still doing well academically and yes, when you’re a kid in this country, that’s how they mark your well-being.”

When Mia turned 15, help finally came, but only after she had a breakdown. She was arrested for false imprisonment and a felony after attacking her teacher, and ended up being admitted to a psychiatric unit.

Mia believes that earlier intervention would have prevented her worsening in crisis.

The painting:
Mia started climbing

“I would kill myself.” I would kill myself. Taking care of your mental health is life-saving, as much as taking care of your heart, as much as taking care of your diabetes. You cannot live a healthy, happy life if you are mentally ill, without support.”

Mia’s story of her struggle to access the right health care at the right time exposes a system in crisis. Children and young adults across the country are forced to endure long waits for specialist services, and demand continues to grow.

NHS England estimates that a quarter of all 17 to 19-year-olds now have a probable mental health disorder, compared with one in 10 just six years ago.

David Barker and his team at Youth Talk offer free confidential counseling for 13-25 year olds.

But they are overwhelmed by a record number of children and young people who need help.

The charity has doubled its capacity – but even that is not enough.

Mr. Barker told Sky News: “Before the pandemic there was a crisis of young people struggling with their mental health, the pandemic has made that all much worse, and as a result we’re seeing the long tail of the COVID pandemic. in terms of mental health and especially young people”.

Community health services also have problems. Research by NHS providers found that children now wait an average of 91 weeks to be assessed for an autism spectrum disorder and between 72 and 207 weeks for an ADHD assessment.

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Jenna Hughes speaks to Sky News
The painting:
Jenna Hughes speaks to Sky News

Jenna Hughes had to wait three years for a diagnosis for her oldest child, Amelia.

Her youngest, Imogen, has been waiting for a year. Caring for Amelia and Imogen without any extra help takes its toll on everyone in the family.

“I struggled with my mental health,” says Jenna. “Because of the level of care my children need. It’s hard on my family. The NHS is overstretched but it puts a lot of pressure on families, strain and stress.”

Only an increase in demand is expected.

And if there is no urgent action, health providers such as Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust predict that by next year their community waiting lists for children and young people will more than double since the pandemic.

Its chief executive Elliott Howard Jones said the biggest challenge for his trust in responding to the growing crisis was finding the right staff.

“It’s absolutely not where we want to be, we want to have much shorter waiting times for children, it significantly affects their life chances and their educational attainment if we don’t see them quickly.”

“The biggest challenge in terms of community services is not the vision of what we want to do, which is clearly to support people at home and help children develop as much as they can, but getting staff and developing services fast enough to be able to to answer”.

Mia is now 21 years old. She is in her final year studying wildlife biology at the Royal Veterinary College after passing her A Levels with top marks.

But the outcome could have been very different and for the thousands of children who are still struggling it will be if the children’s mental health crisis is not urgently addressed.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritan branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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Image Source : news.sky.com

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