Foundation responds to Audit Scotland report on youth mental health services

Responding to Audit Scotland’s report on children and young people’s mental health services, Toni Giugliano, Policy Manager at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland said:
“It’s clear that the current system is failing to meet the needs of too many children and young people. We need to recognise that mental ill health is now the single biggest public health challenge facing children and young people and unless we make significant investment in prevention we’ll continue to see more children needing specialist support. 
“50% of mental health problems in adults are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. It’s therefore disappointing that spending on children and young people’s mental health is still a tiny proportion of the overall spending on mental health.  
“Referral pathways to CAMHS are still patchy and inconsistent across the country, referrals are increasingly rejected with few alternatives provided by professionals, data gathering is limited and waiting lists are getting longer. The status quo is not sustainable. 
“Recent research shows that mental health problems, and a range of signs of distress including self-harm, are on the increase for young people, especially girls. Our own research has found that almost a quarter of Scots aged 18-24 have self-harmed. Intervening early is crucial to prevent a mental health problem from becoming established. 
“But it’s not all about specialist services and we need to invest in creating conditions in which young people can grow into resilient adults and to prioritise the provision of the right early intervention services for those that do begin to struggle. We’re not doing enough to lessen the impact of early experiences of poor mental health and to ensure young people who are struggling learn positive help-seeking strategies.
“While the focus of this report is clearly on services, we will fail to turn the tide unless we invest in prevention and upskill non-medical staff, such as teachers and youth workers who play a major role in supporting young people’s development. The environments that young people grow up in – at home, at school and in communities – are fundamental in safeguarding their wellbeing and that’s where the focus must be. 
“We know from our own research that body image and social comparison are major concerns for young people and that abuse and bullying leave long shadows into adulthood. 
“That’s why we’ve been clear with the Scottish Government that we need to create mentally friendly school environments where all teachers are trained in mental health, where young people are taught about managing stressful life events and building resilience. Be it body image, exam stress, relationships, pressures to conform or succeed – we need Curriculum for Excellence to tackle head on the root causes that are creating distress.”