Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Need a Tangible Commitment

25 October 2016

Letter in The Guardian, 24th October 2016, from Prof Dame Sue Bailey, and Dr Pooky Knightsmith in response to article in which Secretary of State for Health, pledges to improve diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions and put specialists in schools.  Our letter welcomes this, but stresses that you need to address the whole system, rather than just putting specialists in schools. 

We welcome Jeremy Hunt highlighting the need to more effectively help children and young people with mental health issues by intervening early, and the emphasis he puts on schools and Camhs teams working together.

The secretary of state refers to the need for Camhs workers in schools, and that is important, but as in many areas of healthcare, you need to consider the whole system. You can’t just put a Camhs worker into a school and think everything is fixed. Schools need better trained staff, who can identify and signpost children who might have mental health problems, a curriculum where children and young people learn how to look after their own mental health, and a culture that addresses wellbeing. A Camhs worker or a counsellor in schools can help with all of this, but there will inevitably be those who need more specialist support, so there have to be appropriate services in the community as well. We already have a blueprint from government about how to do this, in the form of Future in Mind.  It now needs to be implemented properly across the country so no child is left behind.

Many schools already see the importance of supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. For instance, Schools North East, which is UK’s only regional network of schools, has recently launched their schools-led mental health commission, which Prof Sue Bailey is privileged to chair.

Prof Sue Bailey and Dr Pooky Knightsmith
Chair and vice-chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition