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Schools have made over 120,000 referrals for mental health treatment since 2014

Health / Mon 28th May 2018 at 01:30pm

Health Trust

SCHOOLS have made over 120,000 referrals for mental health treatment since 2014

In nearly a third of referrals children were declined specialist CAMHS treatment

Community and voluntary services such as Childline are a lifeline to rejected children

The number of referrals by schools seeking mental health treatment for troubled pupils has shot up by over a third in the last three years, the NSPCC reveals today.

In a Freedom of Information request to NHS Trusts in England the charity found schools seeking professional help for pupils from NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) made 123,713 referrals since 2014/15.

Worryingly most referrals (56%) came from primary schools. This could be a result of a lack of funding and services to support children in those settings.

Overall the number of referrals to CAMHS from schools has steadily increased each year since 2014/15, reaching 34,757 in 2017/18 – the equivalent of 183 every school day.

Since 2014 schools made 7,881 referrals to CAMHS in the East of England, but almost a third of these were deemed ineligible for treatment. (See tables in Notes to Editors for East of England NHS Trust breakdown of statistics)

The charity is warning that increased demand for support across specialist CAMHS, schools and the voluntary sector is placing the system under real pressure, jeopardising the well-being of thousands of children.

This has shone a light on the urgent need for a broader range of support for children’s mental health needs.

The NSPCC is now calling on the Government with their Are You There? campaign to invest some of this funding into early support services for children.

The NSPCC’s Childline service has seen a 26% increase in the number of counselling sessions with children about mental health issues over the past four years.

The news follows a damning Select Committees report from last week, which found that the Government’s £300m plans to improve mental health provision for children “lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of children who desperately need it.”

Nearly a third (31%) of referrals from schools to CAMHS, for Trusts across England who were able to provide the information, over the last three years were declined treatment as they did not meet the criteria for support.

Some young people have told Childline that they only received specialist support when they reached crisis point, and have even asked Childline counsellors to act on their behalf to get help quicker.

A 17-year-old girl told Childline: “I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and find it difficult to leave the house or get out of bed. I was referred to CAMHS but I was on a waiting list for 8 months and during that time my anxiety got worse so I never went because I was too scared.”

Due to the rise in mental health counselling sessions the charity delivers, they are calling on Government to increase the amount of funding it gives to Childline, to ensure it can reach even more children who are struggling.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said: “Our research shows schools are increasingly referring children for specialist mental health treatment, often when the child is at crisis point.

“Childline plays a vital role in supporting children with their mental health, and many turn to us when they are struggling to get access to specialist treatment. Early counselling from Childline could also help relieve the pressure on CAMHS.

“We have seen a marked increase in counselling about mental health, and fully expect it to continue. It is vital that Government urgently provides more funding to Childline and help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “Young people are telling us they are overwhelmed with mental health issues, such depression and anxiety, which is taking many of them to the brink of suicide.

“Our counsellors are literally saving lives, and it concerns us that we cannot help every child who desperately needs us.

“We must make sure that Childline is adequately funded so it isn’t left vulnerable and can be there for the children who have nowhere else to turn.”

Last year, a Government Green Paper promised a shake-up of children’s mental health support with an injection of £300 million. Through these reforms the charity urges Government to recognise the vital role played by voluntary sector services in supporting children’s mental health, particularly when statutory services are overwhelmed or schools don’t have the expertise to deal with complex mental health issues.

Last week the NSPCC and four of their young campaigners handed in a petition of 22,411 signatures to Number 10 Downing Street to call for increased funding to Childline as part of their Are You There? campaign.

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