This week is Children’s mental health week https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk.
I began my registered nursing career working in an admission and treatment Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) Hospital, and i’ve also managed a NHS community CAMHS team so I have a reasonable grasp of the challenges and complexity within this provision of mental health services.
In my experience, the majority of mental health needs for children relate to emotional and behavioural disturbances. In contrast to my observations in adult mental health services I have seen very few clear-cut cases of psychosis, mood disorders or depression in children and young people. That isn’t to say that the clinical presentations are not serious or complex though. Any CAMHS veteran (usually wearing trainers, and almost always covered in glitter in my experience [shout out!]) will tell you that their services are some of the busiest, and most volatile; and in my opinon they are probably right.
The mental health needs of children and young people are undoubtedly best accomodated outside of a hospital or clinical setting, which is actually quite fortunate given the lack of adequate provision across the country and ever rising demand. This rise in demand should serve as a warning to us all as a reflection of the well-being and functioning of our society. Increases in the number of children reporting abuse, requiring trauma therapy, emotional regulation sessions, and family therapy and much more is a sobering reality that large parts of our society are not meeting the emotional and mental health needs of our children. CAMHS crisis teams are often overwhelmed with calls from distressed young people on Sundays before school and especially so on the final days of term breaks. Think about that for a second, and think some more during this week. In 1906 Upton Sinclair wrote in his invetsigative book ‘The Jungle’, that for better animals we needed to create better jungles. I think that over a hundred years later that we still do.