In 2017-18 at least 55,000 referrals to children’s mental health services (Camhs) were rejected or considered inappropriate. In the same year, there were almost 200,000 referrals in total – up 26% when compared with 2013-14.
These figures come from a report published by the independent think-tank, the Education Policy Institute (EPI).
One clear knock-on effect is that teachers are increasingly being called on to care for young people in extreme distress. In many cases, they are being forced to do so without adequate training to back them up.
The Government’s 2018 Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey revealed that over 40% of teachers believed they lacked sufficient training to identify mental health issues in pupils. Two-thirds did not know how to help pupils access specialist support outside the school.
On average, three children in every classroom throughout the UK have a diagnosable mental health condition.
Half price training for World Mental Health Day
Despite the Department of Heath ploughing an extra £1,4 billion into children’s mental health, 24% of the Local Authorities who responded to the EPI admitted to having scrapped services related to the mental health and wellbeing of children over the last eight years.
This is why online training courses such as the Certificate in Mental Health & Wellbeing in Children & Young People are so valuable. It gives the knowledge teachers need in a time-saving format they can take whenever they want. And it is currently being offered at half price for World Mental Health Day.
According to Jo Hutchinson, EPI’s director of social mobility and vulnerable learners; "While we have seen a reduction in some of the longest waiting times, many children still face a lengthy period of time before they can receive any specialist treatment and the number of referrals into these stretched services is rising."
Why are referrals rejected?
Looking at some of the reasons given for rejections of mental health referrals seem alarming to the untrained eye –
- self-harm referrals being rejected unless accompanied by another mental health condition
- eating disorder referrals being rejected if the weight loss is less than 15% (although this is against National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines)
- rejection because young people are not already engaged with early intervention services and have not waited a specified length of time
- referrals being rejected because the young people's needs should be met by other services, e.g. if they were homeless or had parents with a substance addiction.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers were having to re-refer many children who were turned down.
Teachers need to be able to recognise the early stages of mental health conditions and act accordingly. Not only does early intervention dramatically improve mental health outcomes, a focus on emotional and mental wellbeing can help children to develop greater emotional resilience and a positive sense of self.
Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is - Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.
Now is the time for all teaching staff to be supported and trained so they can understand the types of mental health conditions that they could come across and become confident that they can provide the mental health first aid their pupils need.