The Government’s green paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, shines a light on some of the big issues that must be addressed if we are to improve mental health in this country.
New mental health support teams and designated senior leads for mental health would be a positive step; we would encourage the roll-out of these far quicker than the paper suggests. We would also ask for reassurance that these teams will receive additional funding.
We welcome the involvement of the voluntary sector and other organisations which already have established links with schools and NHS services.
The ambition for a shorter waiting list for young people who need help is a positive one, assuming there are sufficient services in place to provide professional support.
The omission of online counselling in the paper is disappointing. It is precisely this scaleable, easily-accessible service which young people are asking for and which can make huge inroads in to waiting lists, while helping thousands of children and young people.
This being said, we note that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health will set up a working group to explore ways to keep children and young people safe and healthy online “in terms of the impact of the internet on their mental health and wellbeing” which is a welcome announcement assuming there is scope to investigate the positive impact of the internet, and not only its detriments.
Elsewhere, the report contains little about what young people want from services. We know from our work with thousands of young people that they value anonymity. This is one of the major reasons online counselling appeals. They also want flexibility: most children and young people we help use our online counselling service out of school hours, accessing help from different devices.
We must acknowledge that young people’s lives are inextricably linked with digital; this makes online mental health support services essential in enabling early engagement and early intervention, especially if they can offer a range of therapeutic approaches.
Where the Future in Mind report promoted the tailoring of services around the needs of young people and pressed for a transformed mental health system, the green paper offers practical, apparently CBT-based solutions, in schools and colleges. We recognise the green paper alludes to continuing the work of Future in Mind and we hope that system-wide focus remains prevalent.
We are concerned that there are those who do not choose to look for or receive help during school or college hours who may be overlooked. There are also those for whom a CBT approach will not work. Additionally, we are conscious of teachers’ increasing workloads.
We know that some young people who have passed through the education system need help as they transition to adulthood. We therefore welcome the Government’s pledge to establish a new working group to look at mental health support for 16-25 year olds.
We are keen to support this consultation and see it as vital that the Government is receptive to evidence from young people concerning their clear desire for anonymity, choice and autonomy. We will be developing a full response to the Government’s consultation paper and look forward to being part of a renewed effort to improve young people’s access to early mental health support.
Provider of online counselling and wellbeing services for children, young people and adults.