Counselling and mental health services: Will they still be delivered?

The mental health of our young people has been in the headlines a lot recently with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) services have been described as ‘unfit for purpose’. We've read so many parents' horror story experiences of trying to access mental health support for their children, it’s no wonder it has come to a breaking point.

It’s clear that improvements are urgently needed.

Before the election, Norman Lamb, then Minister of State for Care and Support wrote a foreword in a report written by Department of Health and NHS England entitled ‘Future in Mind’ Promoting, protecting and improving our children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

“Our childhood has a profound effect on our adult lives. Many mental health conditions in adulthood show their first signs in childhood and, if left untreated, can develop into conditions, which need regular care."

Something that many mental health professionals have been saying for years. Prevention is better than cure. However, as it says on the policy page, that was when he had any say in the matter. What happens now the government is blue all over?

As we are adults for longer than we are children it makes sense to put the investment in to children’s mental health services and avoid a potential epidemic of adult mental health problems

I think it's pertinent however to remind ourselves of the recommendations of this report in the hope that it won't now be brushed under the carpet and the £1.25 billion promised in the pre-election budget is still made available.

sad boy

Some of the key points of the report are to improve public awareness and understanding, where people think and feel differently about mental health issues for children and young people so there is less fear and stigma and discrimination are tackled.

The former mental health taskforce that produced the Future in Mind report gave recommendations of how this should be delivered, imcluding:

  • a hard hitting anti-stigma campaign which raises awareness and promotes improved attitudes to children and young people affected by mental health difficulties. This would build on the success of the existing Time to Change
  • empower young people to self-care through increased availability of new quality assured apps and digital tools.
  • That in in every part of the country, children and young people having timely access to clinically effective mental health support when they need it.
  • a five year programme to develop a comprehensive set of access and waiting times standards that bring the same rigour to mental health as is seen in physical health.
  • Developing a person centred model that encompasses the a service built around the needs of children, young people and their families. This will ensure children and young people have easy access to the right support from the right service at the right time.
  • No young person under the age of 18 being detained in a police cell as a place

Providing good quality counselling!

In addition to the point outlined above, last March, the Department for Education published guidelines for implementing a counselling service within school.

The report, Counselling in Schools: a blueprint for the future details what schools can do to provide a good quality counselling service for their young people. I think this is a great idea, we all need opportunities to be listened to and have our thoughts and feelings reflected back to us in a safe non- judgemental environment. Young people are no exception and I feel it is even more important these days that they have these opportunities. The benefits of good quality therapy, delivered by a qualified and empathic therapist can be life changing. The children's charity, Place2be report that 74% of parents whose children have received Place2Be counselling, say they have since seen an improvement in their child’s wellbeing.

Mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is everyone’s business. The benefits to the individual and to society in preventing problems from arising, and intervening early where they do, are significant. For schools this can result in improved attainment, attendance, reductions in behavioural problems, as well as happier, more confident and resilient pupils.

I couldn’t agree more with the above statement. There is so much pressure on our young people to conform and fit in in some ways and yet be different and stand out in others. The amount of choice they have over their lives from a very young age can cause confusion and affect their self-esteem as they mature and need more support. Children who are given more responsibility for themselves than their brains can yet deal with, can also go on to develop self-esteem difficulties. It’s worth remembering the human brain is developing the whole way through childhood and into adolescence and too much responsibility or to little ‘time to play’ can affect how the young person perceives themselves and the world around them.

Supervision – An essential part of the teacher/pupil relationship

A perspective I share with many of my counselling colleagues, is that a counselling approach can be incorporated painlessly into the classroom, in the same way an occupational therapist can provide a therapy programme to be implemented by a teaching assistant through the school day.

Additionally, in the counselling profession, every counsellor has to undergo at least monthly supervision to ensure they are meeting the best needs of their client. I think similarly, that by introducing "supervision" for teachers on a monthly basis, this can give them an opportunity to be open and honest about how they feel about their role as a teacher or colleague and explore what certain people, pupils or situations bring up for them. Sharing this information can be hugely beneficial in improving relationships throughout the whole school and will show good practice for teachers, teaching staff and pupils alike.

If staff are given opportunities to look openly and non-judgementally at their relationships with pupils this can only enhance the individual and whole class relationship in so many ways.

A document like this being available to parents and young people (where appropriate) so they are able to see what counselling is and what good counselling looks like is essential and can only serve to support our young people as they navigate their way through to adulthood.

There should be no division between what is good 'mental  health' over what is good 'physical health'. They go together and influence each other. The importance of being able to think positively about yourself and your life cannot be over-emphasised because thoughts become things.

We must keep a focus on the pledges made for improving mental health during the last government and ensure that promises are kept. Young Minds are campaigning for this very thing with "Keep Your Word".

What do you do to maintain good mental health and how do you help your child to do the same? What would you like to see in schools to support this? Good mental health starts now and it's everybody’s responsibility! 

Angela Kelly
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  1. Cary Canavan

    In my area you cannot get support for mental illness from CAMHS if your primary diagnosis is autism. It’s on their website.

    I’m on a year’s waiting list for counselling myself, after a recent breakdown.

    1. Angela Watts Kelly

      Sorry to hear that you are unable to access support – Have you spoken to your GP to see if a tertiary referral is an option? Regarding yourself, a year sounds a long time to wait, have you looked online or contacted a carer support service to see if there are any voluntary counselling services available?

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