Five policy changes would transform mental health services for young people—and in doing so, tackle the crisis at its rootby Duncan Sim / August 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
Mental illness has been a topic of growing political and public concern over recent years, especially since Theresa May identified poor quality mental health service provision as one of the “burning injustices” she pledged her government would fight in her first speech outside No 10.
Events—both unforeseen but also of her own making—have since overtaken her efforts to take constructive action to address this issue. Yet the scale of the crisis in both adult and children’s service provision continues to grow.
Spending on adult mental health services by both local authorities and NHS trusts has fallen significantly in real terms since 2010, while a third of services for children have been reduced in scale or closed altogether over the same period. A survey of NHS trusts in England last month found that 80 per cent of managers polled fear they will not have enough resources this year to provide swift, high-quality mental health support given rising demand for services.
Against this backdrop, it is not feasible simply to focus on improving the quality of care offered to those in need of support. There must be a parallel emphasis on slowing the pipeline of new cases.
To achieve this, special attention must be given to the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s young people. It is estimated that three quarters of adult mental health problems begin before the age of 18. Preventing these problems occurring at this young age, or limiting their severity, offers a route to improved mental health among the adult population further down the line.
“The government should signal a willingness to impose a duty on the turnover of social media companies, to fund mental health support”
Yet in the face of rising caseloads and budget cuts, priority is being given to treating young people who have already developed a severe difficulty. Only 16 per cent of annual spending on children and young people’s mental health goes on community-based early intervention services.
Pivoting towards an early intervention approach will require both structural and policy reforms. In ResPublica’s latest report, “Making Young Minds Matter,” supported by leading children’s charity Barnardo’s, we set out what these reforms could look like. We recommend five key changes.
First, more collaborative working between charities and local authorities. The voluntary sector can provide valuable insights into the changes needed in the local support ecosystem to achieve…