Young people may have been less susceptible to Covid, but the pandemic has hit them hard in other ways. They have been much more affected by loneliness, depression, anxiety and a wide range of complex disorders. You can see it in scientific studies and I see it in my own inbox. I’m in regular contact with more and more young people – and their parents – who are desperate for help but struggling to get it.
As part of Children’s Mental Health Week (7-13 February), I’m launching a campaign for better mental health support in Bristol schools and a guarantee that young people needing mental health treatment will get it within a month. New data published this week shows two in three (69%) children referred for mental health treatment in the Bristol area are waiting more than four weeks to be seen.
I know the local NHS and other mental health services in Bristol are under immense pressure, thanks to callous Tory cuts over the last decade. Right now, some young people are waiting many months to get the help they need with terrible consequences for their mental health and development.
I am asking government to
- Guarantee mental health treatment for young people within a month of referral
- Put an open access mental health hub for children and young people in every community, with early intervention and drop-in services
- Ensure specialist mental health support in every school, to support pupils and resolve problems before they escalate. This plan would see a full-time mental health professional in every secondary school and a part time professional in every primary school.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Labour put these demands to a vote, which the Tories dodged by abstaining.
How you can get involved
As part of this campaign, I want to hear from young people from all secondary schools my constituency and visit a wide range of organisations providing mental health support in the Bristol area.
If you live in my constituency of Bristol West (check here) you can sign up to updates and share your views on mental health support here.
Mental health support cut back, despite high demand
The pandemic has been particularly tough on young people, with the number of children needing treatment for severe mental health issues rising 77% since 2019. At the same time, mental health services are under extreme pressure after a decade of cuts.
There are now real concerns that many young people are unable to access the mental health support they need. NHS research shows one in six children is now suffering from a probable mental health condition, up from one in nine in 2017. As a result, only about a third of these children (32%) were able to access treatment, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
Since the Tories came into government, a quarter of mental health beds have been cut. Over a third of children were turned away from mental health services last year alone, and right now 1.6 million people are waiting for mental health treatment.
Across the country, a quarter (24%) of children referred for mental health treatment in 2020/21 had their cases closed without receiving any treatment.
Labour has promised to guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it.
The next Labour government will put specialist mental health support in every school and ensure there is an open access mental health hub for children and young people in every community.