Crucial support is needed for Calderdale youngsters

Children's mental health
Children's mental health

Children in Calderdale have been referred to mental health services nearly 3,000 times since 2015.

Figures revealed from a Freedom of Information request by the Courier show that there have been 2,896 referrals of people aged under 18 in Calderdale since 2015.

The figures have decreased since 2015, with 927 in 2015, 872 in 2016, 786 in 2017 and 311 in 2018, up to 30 April, with the numbers split almost exactly evenly between boys and girls.

The figures show that 1,646 of the total referrals accessed some form of assessment and/or treatment, including CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) consultation, assessment or screening, pharmacological advice, therapeutic input including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy and family therapy, and eating and dietary advice.

Of the total referrals, 923 were discharged without being seen, while 327 of these referrals are still waiting to be seen.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “These figures show the challenge faced by local mental health services with thousands of young people referred in the last few years.

“There are amazing staff working to support young people with mental health problems, however they are struggling due to a lack of Government funds since 2010. As a result we are seeing a national shortage of in-patient mental health beds, reductions in specialist services and increasingly long waiting lists.

“It’s so important that we get this right as mental health problems in childhood and adolescence can continue into adult life unless properly treated, in addition to the immediate impact on the individual and their family.

“I have recently written to the Health Secretary urging him to increase support to these services and have met locally with health chiefs to discuss the difficulties they’re facing.”

Matt Blow, Policy Manager at YoungMinds, said: “We know from calls to our Parents Helpline that too many young people across the country don’t get the support they need quickly enough, or are turned down for treatment because their problems aren’t considered ‘serious’ enough. Long waiting times can mean problems escalate – we hear from parents whose children have started to self-harm, dropped out of school or become suicidal while waiting for the right treatment. That’s why it’s crucial that early intervention is a priority, and that services have the funding they need to provide fast support for all young people who need it.”

Luke Ambler is a former Halifax RLFC player who launched the #itsokaytotalk campaign after the suicide of his brother-in-law Andy Roberts.

He founded Andy’s Man Club, a support network for people with mental health problems, in 2016.

During his childhood growing up in Calderdale, he had an eating disorder and was the victim of severe bullying.

“The good thing is that people are getting help, but the numbers are big,” he said of the figures revealed.

“I would like to know how many haven’t had access to services who need it.

“I’m surprised there’s a decrease in the figures, but that is also good.

“That could be because hopefully there’s more of an awareness in schools and there’s more support from parents and teachers.

“Everything is about prevention rather than cure. These stats indicate cure. These people are already struggling and they need some help.

“I think phones and social media play a big part. The issue has always been there but now there is more awareness of it.

“It’s important to make the distinction between mental health and mental illness - they are two different things.

“But I think we need to take more ownership of the issue. I don’t slam services - they’re doing the best they can with the resources they get.

“There are 136 six-year-old’s who have been referred, but that 136 individuals who need their own help plan and have their own back-story.

“We need to look at ourselves as parents and human beings and ask what more we can do. Parents and schools need to step up.

“The best help I have found is self-help, but you can also encourage people to get the help they need.

“I would advise people to seek help, from their peers, their parents, or go to your doctor.

“Get the help you need and use it. The first step, the hardest step, is to seek help.

“But there are other things you can do like get outside and put your phone down, surround yourself with good people.

“Life is rubbish at times, but mindset is a big thing, how you approach certain things.

“Do we need more services? Of course we do. But can we as individuals do more? 100 per cent. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.”