These past few weeks Children’s mental health services have been the talk of the government, social media and the news. From every direction people are posting, discussing and proclaiming that Theresa May has announced that childhood mental illness must become a priority and her ‘unveiling of plans to reform the mental health services’.
I see professionals getting excited at the prospect of awareness and aid to their services, parents feeling relieved that they may finally be able to get their child the help they so strongly need and deserve. The entire UK seems to have a positive outlook on this proclaimed priority.
I feel angered at these claims by Theresa May. Now as a children’s therapist who has devoted the past 7 years of my life in training and practice to work in this field that may seem strange. But let me break this down…
Theresa May talked a good talk and she got the country riled up in excitement. But let’s look closer; Theresa May did not discuss budget increase, she did not discuss the development of new services or the funded training to develop more job roles for the already over stretched services we have. She didn’t mention hospitals or outpatient services at all. She spoke about communities and schools. The problem there? I didn’t go through 7 years of training for nothing. It takes specialist training to be equipped to work with these children. Teachers do not have this training. They are trained to teach and although they provide much need pastoral support for our kids they are not responsible for their mental wellbeing. We are. The parents, the GP’s, the nurses, the Psychologist, Psychiatrists and the Therapists.
I am proud to have worked in the NHS for over 4 years before entering into private practice. I have seen the demands on the NHS and I have seen the amazing work the staff do. But I have also seen the strain. I personally researched into ASD diagnostic waiting lists within our NHS and found an 18- 24 month wait. Our children’s psychological services currently have a 9 month wait. So where does that leave these children? It leaves them without. It leaves their families without.
So I shall wait with baited breath to see the outcomes of the government’s new plans to promote childhood mental wellbeing. And in the mean time I will continue to work with these children , their families and their schools on the front line because if I can stop one child taking the wrong path, if I can stop one teenager cutting themselves or talk one pre-adolescent depressed child from taking their life, or if I can reduce the social isolation of our SEN children and if I can give my support to one family to give them a tiny glimmer of hope, then my training, the demands and the stigma attached to my role and research will all be worth every second.
I’m waiting RT Hon May….