Bexhill and Battle MP raises issue of children’s mental health

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Concerns children and young people with acute mental health problems are not being adequately assessed have been raised in parliament.

MP Huw Merriman raised the issue at prime minister’s questions after meetings families who needed his help in the last six months.

They told him they had problems getting the correct assessment and support for their children with mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Most found their GPs caring and supportive, but felt the onward referral within the Child And Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) was slow and insufficient.

Mr Merriman met a number of young people who have been helped by the local CAMHS but is worried there are families who feel let down and unsupported in the early stages of seeking help. Speaking in parliament, he said: “Last Friday, I made separate visits to three families, all of whom have a child suffering from acute mental health difficulties that the families felt had not been adequately assessed at the early stages by child and adolescent mental health services.

“Colleagues from across the chamber will be all too familiar with such visits.”

Saying he welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to reform mental health provision for young people, Mr Merriman asked: “Will he consider reviewing the provision of initial stage treatment and continue to be the champion for these vulnerable and brave children?”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Children and young people’s mental health is a priority for the government. I think we can all agree across this house for many years this area has not had adequate attention or adequate investment. I would highlight in particular the problems of psychosis, sometimes caused by drug use. I would also raise the huge problem of eating disorders, we are seeing a rapid increase in the number of people suffering.”

He said the government had gone a ‘long way’ in increasing the number of talking therapies, however, there was ‘more to be done’ which was why the government was investing £1.4bn in a ‘system-wide’ transformation.

Following PMQ’s Mr Merriman said: “I was glad to hear the prime minister recognises young people’s mental health services have suffered from under investment and plans are in place to better help vulnerable young people. I will be arranging to meet our local CAMHS team in the near future to discuss the cases brought to my attention and find out how they can improve the initial contact families have when they are referred to CAMHS.”