Mental Health Today editor Dan Parton looks at the impact of cuts to mental health services for children and young people:
There was worrying – but unsurprising – news from YoungMinds recently that the majority of councils have cut their Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) budgets since 2010. This can only be storing up problems for the future – for young people and mental health services.
While YoungMinds only received 51 responses from local authorities to its Freedom of Information Request on funding for CAMHS since 2010, 34 of those said they had cut their relevant budgets. One council reported a massive 76% reduction in its CAMHS budget.
If this pattern is repeated among all councils – and it is likely that it will be, given many have had to make swingeing budget cuts in the past couple of years – then hundreds of thousands of children and young people may not be getting the services they need. After all, 1 in 10 children aged 5-16 in the UK – about 850,000 – has a diagnosable mental health disorder.
This is hugely worrying. As Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, said, early intervention is vital in order to identify problems quickly before they worsen and before referrals for more specialist services are needed.
“As well as reducing the suffering that young people may be experiencing, intervening early also reduces the need for more expensive forms of treatment when problems become more serious and entrenched," she said.
I think that sums things up pretty neatly. I’d only add that it is well known that more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood, but less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
Of course, these cuts also go against the principles set out in the foreword of the Government’s mental health strategy ‘No Health without Mental Health’. It says: “By promoting good mental health and intervening early, particularly in the crucial childhood and teenage years, we can help to prevent mental illness from developing and mitigate its effects when it does.”
Cutting CAMHS budgets does neither. There are some great people doing all they can in CAMHS teams around the country, but they can only do so much with the resources they have, or rather don’t have.
These figures add to fears that the talk from Government about promoting good mental health in childhood and teenage years is just rhetoric. While £50 million has been pumped into talking therapies for young people in recent years, which is a welcome boost, it does not make up for cuts in other areas.
If this issue is not addressed, it will only create more problems in the future. It could end up costing Governments much more in providing later treatment in primary and secondary care. But, more important than that, is the human cost of young people not getting the treatment they need, when they need it and ending up with greater problems, as a result.