In recent years, the mental health landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation, with a profound impact on the younger generation. A stark indicator of this change is the alarming rise in referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
According to a report published by Young Minds in June, analysis of the NHS data by the mental health charity, shows the number of under 18s referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has risen by 53% since 2019. This reality sheds light on a growing crisis that demands immediate and comprehensive attention, with Young Minds calling for urgent Government action.
There is no doubt the increase in referrals has several contributing factors, one being the impact of the 2021 pandemic. When the education system moved to remote learning, it presented challenges for young people in adapting to online learning, lack of access to technology, reduced interaction with teachers and peers and detecting mental health issues early and providing timely intervention which can prevent conditions from escalating.
In 2015, the Northampton Saints Foundation’s Engage programme launched with an aim to provide comprehensive and well-structured support to young people aged seven to 16 who may be at risk of exclusion or disengaging with mainstream education due to personal challenges.
Young people visit the Foundation up to 15 hours a week, to take part in a diverse range of activities focused on physical, social and emotional development. These experiences are carefully crafted to facilitate healing, personal growth, enjoyment, and the creation of positive everyday memories.
Now with six hubs across Northampton, Corby, Milton Keynes and Ipswich, demand for the programme has grown significantly. One hub, in Milton Keynes, exclusively supports young people who access CAMHS and could be either at risk of admission into a Tier 4 residential unit or need additional support with their mental health.
The hub has seen inspiring results which has, in turn, had a positive impact for CAMHS. In some cases, young people are no longer needing CAMHS support, meaning Engage is active in reducing waiting list times.
The proactive early intervention for the young people attending Engage, supports the CAMHS service and provides parents with a positive alternative at the earliest opportunity, when they may feel that the CAMHS provision isn’t adequate.
From January 2022 to May 2023 students referred from CAMHS, as part of Winter Monies grant, received by the Foundation, have seen a 100% success rate, transitioning back into the education system without further intervention from CAMHS.
Dr Elaine Lockhart, the chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry, quoted in The Guardian said:
“Services are doing their best to meet this rise in demand for treatment, but a lack of staff and resources is making it difficult for them to see patients quickly. This is contributing to a harmful spiral in which many young people are being placed on long waiting lists, which can lead to their symptoms becoming more serious over time and them eventually presenting to services in crisis.”
The Young Minds report further discusses the volume of urgent referrals of under 18s to the mental health crisis, who experienced the most acute health symptoms, reached more than 3,5000 in May, three times higher than in May 2019. The Engage programme is a key player in providing tailored intervention to young people in desperate need to find their route to a positive future.