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Mental health support for UK’s children in need of ‘major ramp-up’

Children in the UK’s mental health service are in need of “a major ramp-up” to cope with growing demand of issues faced by young people, NHS England’s top boss has said.

Speaking to The House magazine yesterday, Simon Stevens said soaring rates of mental illness in young people, as well as more people willing to come forward to discuss mental health, means more funding has to be dedicated to the sector.

Stevens announced earlier this month that the “mass of unmet need” of children’s mental health services will be addressed in the coming year, claiming that NHS England will aim for a third of young people to receive the support they need for mental issues by 2020.

Funding for the children’s mental health sector would come from the recently announced extra £20bn a year by 2023 from Theresa May earlier this month.

“Everybody in the health service recognises that not only is it right to fund the health service properly but in doing so we are making a call on taxpayers’ resources. So, we’ve got an enormous responsibility to be wise stewards of this additional investment,” Stevens said.

Now he has reaffirmed those claims, adding that part of the burden of mental health issues in young people should be shared by social media companies — which Stevens claimed had a “major influence” over the minds of adolescent people at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester.

“There is a growing awareness that alongside some of the positive aspects of children’s online experience and social media, there are some important negatives,” he said.

He went on: “We’ve just within the past week had WHO recognise gaming addiction as a new disorder. So, this is something that has got to be looked at by schools, by social media companies.”

Survey results, which are not yet published, will show a massive increase in young-people experiencing mental health problems, which Stevens partly linked to young people’s usage of cannabis.

The NHS England chief executive noted that medical cannabis can be effective for dealing with certain health condition such as multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced nausea, amongst other things.

But Stevens said it was a “separate debate” to send the message to young people that cannabis is safe when around 10% of people would become addicted to it with a causal effect for some people to develop psychosis from the drug.

“My message is let’s be evidence-based in our public policymaking. The evidence points in different directions on those two questions,” he added.

Stevens’ comments come after a report from the Institute for Economic Affairs claimed legalising the drug would raise £1bn a year in tax for the UK.

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Image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz, iStock images


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