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Town Hall review into mental health services for teenagers

Children fearing stigma of mental illness go to A&E instead of specialists, investigation finds

28 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot

A REVIEW of mental health services for teenagers set up in a bid to boost education scores has led to recommendations on how to stem the rise of cyber-bullying and eating disorders.

The Town Hall probe was launched in March last year after figures showed high levels of mental health disorder diagnoses among Camden teenagers.

Its findings have been sent to all schools in the borough this week. The council believed the high diagnosis rate among teenagers was a “contributing factor to lower achievement in secondary schools”. Camden’s primary schools are rated almost universally as “outstanding” and were recently praised as among the best in the country.

But the reason its secondary schools do not fare so well in the league tables has often been a puzzling statistic. The report also found that 13 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds have a mental health diagnosis – which is above the national average.

It says that young people living in social housing in Camden are twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorder as those who live in a house owned by their parents. And the report estimates that 1,424 Camden teenagers (64 per cent) have “conduct disorders” and will show signs of defiance, physical and verbal aggression or vandalism.

It is estimated that 40 per cent have emotional disorders: phobias, anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. The report said that 70 per cent of children living in care have a “diagnosable mental disorder”.

The report recommended an out-of-hours service is set up so that young people have somewhere to go and get help when they are in a crisis. School pupils should also be trained as mentors and there should be a review of all “outreach programmes” funded by the council. There should be more education of parents about eating disorders in schools.

The report said the council should launch some form of campaign “in response to young people reporting that striving for a ‘perfect’ body image and their use of social media creates serious pressures on their mental health”.

Review panel chairwoman Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells said: “We’re taking the lead in this initiative in Camden, ahead of calls for more mental health provision for children and young people from the Prime Minister and Prince Harry.”

But the report said that young people in Camden had told the panel that “they did not always know where to find information about support services” and there had been a “low number of self-referrals to the Tavistock”, Camden’s main centre for child and teenage mental health support.

Children feared the stigma of mental illness and were instead going to A&E, which “was not sustainable”, the report said.

The report said another unnamed “young person” had told the panel: “If there’s a child who is very quiet, or misbehaving, they normally take this as negative. They [teachers] say, ‘you are not concentrating, you are not contributing anything’. But it could be because the child has problems, and is sad.”

Despite the problems, the report said, there “is currently no comprehensive understanding of what each school in Camden is doing to address the mental health needs of children”.

The report said Tavistock & Portman, the Royal Free Hospital, the Brandon, Hive and Anna Freud centres are all providing a good service. It added: “The need for the review was identified following a scrutiny report on attainment, achievement and standards, which identified mental health problems in adolescents as a contributing factor to lower achievement in secondary schools.”


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