Young people's mental health care is 'inadequate' according to specialist nurses

Young woman in hoodie

The majority of specialist nurses say mental health care for young people isn't good enough.

According to a survey of 631 workers in children and adolescent services, 43% said things were getting worse.

Only 13% thought services for young people were good. Understaffing and delays are seen as some of the main problems.

The poll was carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) for the Guardian newspaper.

Mental health care nurses say they're worried that the rationing of access to care and shortage of beds are so bad that young people risk harming, or even killing themselves.

Other findings in the survey included...

  • 73% of the workers said there were too few nurses.
  • 72% said there were delays in patients getting appointments.
  • 69% pointed to young people being sent "out of area" to get inpatient care, because of bed shortages in their area.
  • 59% pointed to the inability of staff to give patients as many appointments or as much care as they needed.

Stacey, which isn't her real name, is a nurse who works on an acute ward for people with severe and enduring mental illness.

She says the problems in the NHS all come down to a lack of money and says her patients should be treated with a mixture of therapy and medication.

"Due to a lack of money and resources, a lack of staff and lack of access to certain therapies, patients now mostly get treated with medication.

"You don't have time to sit with them, and if you do you end up going home late, which we do quite often."

Depressed woman

Stacey also says mental health staff should get more training and that more specialist units are needed, especially outside bigger towns and cities.

"Access to therapy, in-patient units and more treatment in the community are all needed, because there are long waiting lists.

"People need to feel like they're important and it's very difficult to do that with the lack of resources that we have. If people feel like they're being helped, they'll get better."

The government says it's investing £1.4bn in young people's mental health services and says overall mental health funding for both adults and children went up to an estimated £11.7bn last year (2014-15).

NHS England has also announced an extra £25m for NHS organisations in England to improve mental health services for children.

Homeless man with mental health issues

But YoungMinds chief executive, Sarah Brennan, says children's mental health services have been "woefully" underfunded for years.

"While the government's extra investment is welcome, it's unclear whether it's making a difference to frontline services," she says.

"Even if the new money is spent where it's intended, the Chief of NHS England has admitted that it will only be enough to reach a third of the children who need help.

"Because of long waiting lists the threshold for accessing specialist services has got higher.

"Without treatment, problems are very likely to escalate and children are more likely to self-harm or become suicidal, to be violent and aggressive, or to drop out of school, which can ruin their prospects for the future.

"Delays can also have a disastrous effect on families, with parents forced to leave their jobs to look after their children."

There's advice on how to cope with mental health issues, or help someone dealing with them, on the BBC Advice pages.

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