Newham pumps £1m into children’s mental health to tackle soaring numbers seeking help
- Credit: Archant
As part of our new Minds Matter mental health campaign, investigations reporter EMMA YOULE explores rising needs among children and young people in Newham and finds that almost £1million is being allocated to provide help and support
A growing number of children and young people in Newham are seeking help for crippling mental health problems leading to huge challenges for stretched services, the Recorder can reveal.
This week, as part of our Minds Matter mental health campaign, the Recorder has looked at the impact of mental health problems on under 18s in the borough.
Around 1,800 children and young people are being referred for specialist mental health care in Newham every year, according to data from East London NHS Foundation Trust.
The number rose sharply by 89 per cent from 2011-12 to 2012-13 – the highest increase of any area of mental health care locally – although figures have remained relatively stable since.
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In a bid to provide vital support, almost £1million is being injected into children’s mental health services by Newham Council, local health providers and schools this year.
Cllr Rev Quintin Peppiatt, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Mental health is crucial to any child growing up and it’s an area that’s been significantly under-invested over the years.
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“We need to put a spotlight on mental health because it has serious effects if you suffer from mental health problems, especially as a child.”
Nationally, around one in 10 children aged between five and 16 has a mental health problem, the equivalent of three in every classroom.
Research shows that seeking treatment quickly offers the best chance of preventing childhood conditions escalating into more serious mental illnesses in adulthood.
Dr Muhammad Naqvi, a GP and clinical lead for mental health at Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Of all lifetime mental disorders, 75 per cent of these will appear by the age of 18.
“That’s why we’re working closely with our health and social care partners across the borough to ensure that children and young people have access to the best possible mental health and support services.
“Talking about mental health can be difficult, but we’d like to remind people that there is support available.”
Those in charge of health services recognise there are real opportunities for early intervention in Newham, which has one of the youngest populations in the country.
But a shift in focus is needed to invest in preventative work.
To do this Newham Council has increased its children’s mental health budget from £1.2m in 2015 to £1.5m this year, while Newham CCG, which commissions health services in the borough, has upped its budget from £2.2m to £2.85m.
Among the pilot work under way is Newham’s HeadStart programme, a scheme that offers young people aged 10 to 16 with early mental health difficulties support through volunteering, peer mentoring and access to creative activities and online support.
It is hoped a bid for £2m of Big Lottery funding will allow HeadStart to be rolled out across the borough later this year.
“Obviously preventative work generally is much more difficult to get money into and that’s why we’re trying to go for the HeadStart roll-out, to actually do some of the work with children and schools,” said Cllr Peppiatt.
“The whole idea is that it tries to stop things at an early stage and give parents and children strategies to cope.
“It may be for one particular child that’s got mental health problems that playing the violin every other night gives that sense of calm that means they can get back to themselves and flourish.
“If we can do that, for me that is worth it. We have one less child going into the system.”
Schools are also playing their part and have given £150,000 to help expand Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in schools and across the community.
Newham is not alone in facing pressure on mental health services for children.
Referrals to CAMHS services countrywide increased by 64 per cent in the two years to 2015.
Experts say this may be due to a reduced stigma, higher awareness of mental health problems and higher prevalence of conditions such as self-harm.
National research shows evidence of gender differences in the mental health issues experienced by children. Boys are more likely to externalise problems through conduct disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while girls experience internalised conditions such as depression and anxiety.
All the available health advice emphasises that seeking help quickly when mental health problems emerge offers the best chance of recovery.
“Any parent, if they need support, should access the services that are there and if they find there is a problem talk to the school or doctor,” Cllr Peppiatt said. “It is much better to sort it out early on than later. There are good treatments out there.”