MENTAL health problems in the young are a growing issue for society, with ever-increasing numbers of children needing specialised help if their lives are not to be blighted by a potentially debilitating condition.
The challenges of modern life, whether they be difficulties at home, the stress of exams, or the dark side of social media that can see some children become the victims of cyber-bullying are all increasing the pressures on young people, some of whom are struggling to cope.
As a society, we cannot allow these children to suffer alone.
Yet the deeply concerning figures from the Education Policy Institute suggest that is exactly what is happening, with almost a quarter being turned away by mental health services despite being victims of abuse or showing extremely worrying behaviour, such as self-harming. At the same time, referrals to the services have increased, also by about a quarter, which must be taken as evidence of the growing incidence of mental health problems.
The numbers of children involved are truly shocking, with more than 55,000 not receiving the help they obviously need.
This is an issue that the Government needs to address as a matter of urgency. Plainly, the services that seek to help children are under an unacceptable level of strain, and need to be both reviewed to determine the level of demand and funded accordingly.
The Department of Health claims that 70,000 more children will have access to help by 2020/21 are welcome, but do beg the question of what happens to those being turned away between now and then. As with any illness, mental health issues need to be tackled as early as possible if treatment is to stand the best chance of success. The Government should rethink this timetable to give children’s services the additional help they need immediately.