Mental health services are failing young people

Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide. 

Earlier this month Sir James Munby published his judgement following a court case involving a seventeen-year-old girl. Referred to throughout the case as X (A Child) to protect her anonymity, she is in desperate need of mental health services and expresses a frequent desire to end her own life. She is due to move from her current secure unit but there is no available treatment centre for her to move into.
Instead of receiving the care she so desperately needs, X is to be stranded without an appropriate treatment centre and care for her needs. It is a damning indictment of the state of mental health services under the Tory government. There are six adolescent mental health units that X could move to in theory, but there are no available beds for months. Sir James Munby states that X’s care plan is primarily being determined by a lack of adolescent mental health resources.

Sir Munby went on to say this:
“What this case demonstrates… is the disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services so desperately needed by the increasing numbers of children and young people afflicted with the same kind of difficulties as X is burdened with.”
While an utterly disgraceful set of circumstances, this isn’t an isolated case and it’s not surprising. The constant cuts to vital mental health services at the hands of the Tories means that despite being one of the richest countries in the world we are failing our young people.

Ellen Lucas, specialist Family lawyer at Anthony Gold Solicitor, said, ‘The fact that the Head of Family Justice and most senior Family Judge in the country has delivered such an extraordinary and devastating judgment speaks volumes about the seriousness of the situation and the horrific consequences of lack of mental health provision for young people in this country. It is unusual for a Judge to speak so frankly but, as he put it, he saw it as his duty to “speak truth to power”.” Let’s hope the government will finally start listening.’

Failures in mental health service provision are evident across the UK. Just today the BBC released a report charting the failure of treatment centres to release inpatients at the appropriate time and to the detriment of their wellbeing. In October 2016 the BBC found that the average waiting time faced by young people for mental health treatment was over a month in 40 per cent of areas. These failures in mental health lie squarely with the Tories, their cuts and failure to invest in vital services.

What is the role of the Labour Party in all of this? We must fight to win power so that we can fund mental health services properly, improve support for teachers in schools and roll back Tory cuts. With the Tories in an unstable coalition we have a phenomenal opportunity to put pressure on the government to increase resourcing and services.

Mental health services are desperately in need of more funding and government support. Warm words and empty promises from the Conservatives are not enough to give children like X the help and support they so desperately need. This is why a Labour government is so important, because we want to increase the resources of mental health services, not slash them.

Fantastic work has been done by organisations like Time to Change and the Labour Campaign for Mental Health. We’ve come some way to decrease a degree of the stigma around mental illness but we have so much more to do.

Action must be taken. We must work to end the postcode lottery of mental health service provision; where you live should never determine the quality of care that you receive. We must work to end the shortage of inpatient treatment places to prevent people from having to travel across the country and away from their families to receive treatment. We must work to ensure that there are better and appropriate mental health services for young people.

The status quo is not good enough. Labour will play a vital role in fighting for change and better services. Everyone, regardless of their background, age or circumstances, deserves access to high-quality mental health support and treatment. With half of all mental health difficulties presenting themselves before the age of fourteen services for young people are vital.

That a seventeen-year-old child in desperate need was denied appropriate help and support in one of the richest economies in the world should shame us all and it should shame the Conservative government.

By Miriam Mirwitch/@mrwtch


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