NINE OUT of 10 frontline professionals say children’s mental health has become worse or remained persistently bleak over the past year, a charity claims today.
Research by Action for Children shows a “worrying” increase in youngsters who harm themselves.
Following a survey of its managers, the charity says it is concerned pressures faced by parents, among them job loss and debt, are having a detrimental impact on families, with more than half the charity’s services reporting a rise in parental depression.
The charity, which runs 650 services and works with 300,000 youngsters and carers each year, is calling on local authorities to provide early support for children and devote more attention to warning signs contributing to problems with wellbeing.
Julie Longworth, Action for Children’s operational director of children’s services across Yorkshire, said: “As a society, we are sleepwalking towards a precipice when it comes to child mental health and the time to wake up is now.
“Emotional wellbeing is fundamental to every stage in a child’s life – from starting school to entering adulthood – and services must devote everything they can to ensuring families receive support early, to avoid crisis.”
“The Government has recently recognised that more attention needs to be paid to children’s mental health, but has yet to present any detailed plan to tackle the issue. It doesn’t have to cost more. We are calling on the Government to move more existing funding to early help. It is not about significant increases, but smarter spending.”
Natalie Delaney, practice leader at the charity’s Target Youth Support in Wakefield, said early intervention was key.
One 15-year-old from Wakefield said she used the service earlier this year after becoming depressed and suffering from anxiety. She faced mental bullying from people out of school and had difficulties at home. She fell in with the wrong crowd, drinking and smoking cannabis, and her school attendance worsened. She said: “It was nice to talk to someone else and it helped me build up trust between me and my mum.”