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NHS must do more to help traumatised children

The NHS risks adding to children’s mental health problems instead of helping them, charity YoungMinds has warned.

In a new report, YoungMinds says that the NHS, as well as schools, social services and the police, is not equipped to deal with children who are at risk of mental health problems following traumatic experiences such as abuse, violence, bereavement, bullying and relocation.

For example, children who display behaviours such as being aggressive, self-destructive, withdrawn or highly sexualised are often punished instead of helped.

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “The last thing vulnerable children need is to be re-traumatised by services that should be helping them.

“Across the board, services need to focus less on ‘correcting’ behaviour, and more on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of childhood trauma. There are social and financial gains for the young person – but also the whole of society by doing this. Not doing anything makes no sense at all.”

The charity said the Department of Health and the Department for Education should urgently establish a national expert group to develop new models of care and practice for dealing with traumatised children.

In addition, it said NHS England and CCGs should review local transformation plans and STPs in order to assess their fitness for meeting the needs of children who have faced adversity.

It said the government should commit to a national focus on tackling child adversity and sharing best practice in 2018-19.

Around one in 10 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, and one in four show some signs of mental ill health according to the government’s criteria.

Despite this, recent research from the Centre for Mental Health shows that it takes an average of 10 years for children to receive mental health treatment, and findings from the Children’s Commissioner revealed that 28% of young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services were turned away.

YoungMinds said that children who’ve had traumatic experiences should be fast-tracked to access mental health services even if they don’t meet the usual criteria.

The CQC said last week that NHS staff must do more to identify children suffering from issues such as parental ill health, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation.

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