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Mental health services for young people in need of a “complete overhaul”

Photo by: ryan melaugh | Flickr

A government taskforce has called for a “complete overhaul”of mental health service for children and young people in the UK. The statement comes following Nick Clegg’s announcement that an extra £1.25 billion of funding will be allocated to mental health services in this week’s budget.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister, the money allocated will be spent to treat more than 100,000 children and young people over the next five years.

Care Minister, Norman Lamb, who has spoken openly about his son’s mental health issues, said that the way children and young people’s mental health services are organised is “fundamentally broken” as well as “dysfunctional and very fragmented”. Nick Clegg characterised the treatment of children’s and young people’s mental health care as “an institutionalised form of cruelty.”

In an attempt to confront these issues within mental health services, the government taskforce report suggests measures such as: setting of waiting-time targets, continued support for young people into early 20s, and greater use of online tools to encourage self-help. The plan also calls for a campaign to tackle the stigma around mental health issues in society.

In the last five years, NHS spending on children and young people’s mental health has fallen by more than 6% in real terms. This has meant a cut of around £50 million in the funds available, and the NHS has been required to balance between the growing demand of services and tightening resources.

Currently, treating mental health problems takes 13% of NHS health expenditure, despite mental health issues accounting for 23% of the total burden of disease in England. Even though an estimated 50% of all adult mental health problems begin developing by the age of 14, and 75% before the age of 18, only 6% of the spending on mental health services is aimed at children and young people.

The Mental Health Policy Group and the mental health charity Mind have both released their 2015 election manifestos demanding stronger support for mental health issues, especially to ensure continued and appropriate funding for the services.

In addition to supporting children and young people, the extra cash is also planned to help and support new mothers, as well as aid British veterans with complex mental health needs.

Nick Clegg is optimistic about the 2015 Budget, believing it will bring about “a seismic shift to revolutionise children’s mental healthcare”, which will help “build a fairer society where young people can get the right treatment and support they deserve to live a better life.”

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