Finding support for young people with mental health needs is sometimes a challenge

Finding support for a young person with mental health needs is sometimes a challenge.  It is worth pointing out at this stage the distinction between mental health and mental illness.  Mental health covers emotional and well being issues and needs and is often addressed through non-medical interventions.  Mental illness is medically diagnosed by an appropriate health professional and is addressed by specialist Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  

Last week the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services scrutiny panel had a conversation with the Swansea Council Voluntary Services Mental Health Forum.  The councillors wanted to find out about support provided by the voluntary sector for children and young people with mental health needs that could help prevent them being referred to a specialist medical mental illness service provided by the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The most important thing the panel learned was that there were very few voluntary sector provided support services specifically for young people with emotional, well-being and mental health needs.  Most services provided by the members of the Mental Health Forum were for adults.   Everybody agreed that this represented a real gap in support and provision.  Children and Young People could access support but it was often after being referred to an organisation for an entirely different issue, for example, being a carer, a young mother, needing family support.

The panel found that voluntary organisations that did provide some support for children and young people such as SNAP Cymru, relied on a patchwork of funding mechanisms, fundraising and unpaid volunteers to keep them going.  Volunteers always received training when joining an organisation but there was little money for additional training on things like identifying mental health needs in children and young people.

Some organisations that provided support for adults would often pick up young people who perhaps found themselves in the transition “gap”.  The Mental Health Forum agreed that the pathway from Education into CAMHS was good and it was clear.

The panel asked The Mental Health Forum  what might help improve access to CAMHS and members suggested that the health led CAMHS Commissioning Group, which is examining current provision, would benefit from consistent representation of local authorities, education and the voluntary sector in the western bay region.  This would ensure that the important voices of those who refer into CAMHS get a say in shaping future services.

The scrutiny panel will meet again on 16 February at 9.30am in the Council Chamber at the Guildhall to talk to the Chief Education Officer and the cabinet members for Education and Children & Young People.


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