The UK Government faces a stark choice – invest further in mental health or betray the next generation - Paul Farmer Chief Executive of Mind
Young people’s mental health has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with schooling disrupted, job losses among those of working age, and an uncertain economic future.
As a result, we know that more young people are experiencing mental health problems than two years ago. Hard-working staff in mental health services are already reporting huge challenges meeting the needs of young people with eating disorders.
The previous allocation for children’s mental health assumed a certain level of prevalence that is no longer the case. The current NHS Long Term Plan committed to at least 35 per cent of young people getting the help they need by this year – that number will become increasingly difficult to maintain if more funds are not made available.
This week I have written to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, seeking urgent clarification about why there was no mention of mental health in last week’s NHS and social care funding announcement.
While he has begun to include mentions of it in subsequent speeches in the Commons and in public, we are still unclear what this means for the one in four of us who experience a mental health problem every year.
Mind is calling for £1.459billion for young people’s mental health, or £483.3million per year for the next three years. This money could secure the future mental wellbeing of our children.
This figure includes an uplift to make those NHS commitments a reality for the increasing numbers of young people experiencing mental health problems, and to increase those commitments. This additional funding would mean far more young people would get that help.
The money also includes funding for a network of early treatment hubs for young people to refer themselves to before their mental health deteriorates to the point of needing NHS treatment, based on successful programmes in Australia and Canada.
This makes sense for our children and for the taxpayer. Some of this pot should also be dedicated to innovation – so that we continue to find better ways to support young people’s mental health early on and treat mental health problems.
Half of people who experience mental health problems first developed them before they were 14.
The evidence that young people are in crisis could not be clearer, with thousands of children seeking help, facing lengthy waits, or being turned away. The goalposts have shifted since the Government last made funding commitments to mental health so previous investment, based on old plans, is no longer fit for purpose.
We must urgently see a clear commitment from UK Government to invest in mental health services for young people over and above the settlement for the NHS and help prevent a mental health crisis in the next generation.
This was first published in The Telegraph