Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Improving Care, Treatment and Support

  • 13 December 2017
  • Posted in: Healthcare

With the government's green paper entitled 'Transforming children and young people's mental health provision', published just last week, the timing of this conference could not have been more perfect. A range of expert speakers came together to share their insights to a room full of attentive delegates ready to probe, challenge and build on each presentation. Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of Child and Adolescent Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists acted as a brilliant conference Chair, occasionally posing questions to speakers and adding insight into the topics of the day.

Keynote speaker Prathiba Chitsabesan, Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People's Mental Health at NHS England began the day emphasising more collaborative ways to move forward as well as an emphasis on data. In a highly-anticipated presentation, the Department of Health lead on the Green Paper for Children and Young People's Mental Health, Catherine Tyack, talked us through the green paper. This included emphasising it was a consultation at this stage. The Mental Health Support Teams are thought to be the most costly but most effective of all proposed changes. Tyack received numerous questions from delegates that made for some of the best discussion and analysis of the day. The green paper continued to be mentioned by almost every speaker and remained central to the conference.

"Data is absolutely crucial." Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England.

Looking at a schools-led approach to mental health support was Professor Dame Sue Bailey OBE, Chair of Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition. She stressed the need to have a better balance between attainment and wellbeing, as well as paying sufficient attention to people's lived experiences and 'grey literature'. Continuing with the topic of schools, Elysium's Andy Howard, head teacher of Crossley Manor School, used his wide-ranging teaching experience, from London's inner city to Harrow school. He spoke of the importance of empowering young people to lead meaningful lives.

Howard also quoted Henry Thoreau to illustrate those suffering: "Most lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them." Later in the day John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy at Universities UK, looked at another side of education. He explained higher education students are "populations in transition" who "consistently report lower levels of wellbeing."

"Young people all have the same need." Andy Howard, Elysium.

A particularly interactive speaker, Matt Buttery, CEO of Triple P UK addressed 'Bringing Parents Into the Equation.' He stated Triple P was not about telling parents what to do but about giving them a toolbox for issues they may face in their parenting roles. A video to end his presentation stated that parents are "the most powerful agent of change." He sees the green paper as an opportunity to make schools and healthcare better integrated.

As the afternoon kicked in, Dr Sandeep Ranote, CAMHS Lead for NHS England Strategic Clinical Networks focused on Greater Manchester devolution in healthcare. As part of an answer to a later question, she pointed out there has been a cultural shift in how people manage and talk about their physical health (e.g. quitting smoking, going to the gym, drinking less) but the same was yet to happen for mental health.

A ad from rethink on Professor Paul French's opening slide seemed to resonate with delegates: 'When your car breaks down you can get help within 60 minutes. When your mind breaks down it can take 18 months.' The clinical Lead for Early Psychosis, North West for NHSE North brought attention to the fact austerity meant that 50% of EIPs (Early Intervention Programs) had been cut.

"What we need is a new paradigm.“ Paul Burstow

Paul Burstow, Chair at Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust had a particularly visually engaging slideshow presentation. He highlighted various issues around mental health for children and adolescents including the fact that there can been up to a four year delay for NEETs accessing services. Claire Eastham, bestselling author of 'We're All Mad Here' and blogger of the same name, closed the conference in what was the most relatable and genuine talk of the day. She spoke of her own anxiety being triggered by secondary school where pupils are regularly made to speak in front of the class and go through puberty whilst in the presence of their peers. She stated key signals of a child suffering may include regularly leaving the class (e.g. by asking to go to the toilet) and taking too much time off school.

The conference was a chance to reflect on and explore an increasingly pressing issue in a highly relevant policy context. We look forward to seeing how this issue develops next year.

  • mental health
  • children
  • young people