First, let me declare a personal interest – I have nearly finished my three-year child psychotherapeutic counselling training. Obviously I would quite like it if I could soon be earning money providing therapy to children who need it. Second, I do not believe psychotherapy or counselling, of whichever modality, is a panacea or a magic wand. Third, this post will be unashamedly political. Fourth, it is likely to contain swear words.
Let’s start with something we can all agree on, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in this country are shit. Everyone knows that – even people who work for CAMHS think it is shit. That does not mean the people who work for CAMHS are shit – I am certain most of them are doing their best. This has always been the case, even when I first had any involvement with them 15 years ago, and the reason for that is very straightforward and everyone reading this will know it. CAMHS are wildly under-resourced. So the Conservatives cut funding to an already under-resourced service.
But it is OK because everyone is really worried about child mental health. The Secretary of State for Health is worried about it, the Prime Minister is worried about it. Goodness, even the heir to the throne, his missus and kid brother are really worried about it. I am worried about the radiator leak and faulty ABS pump on my car, but weirdly however much time I spend worrying about it the problems don’t seem to go away. I am starting to think I need to take it to someone who knows how to repair cars so they can fix it for me…oh hang on…does that mean I will have to spend money?
Perhaps I’ll just keep telling everyone how really, really worried I am about my car. I’ll use my best serious voice so everyone will know that I totally get how important it is. Yeah, I am sure that will help.
Maybe the problem is children do not know when they have got a mental health issue, so oblivious are they to their own distress, what we need is specially trained teachers who can spot they have a mental health problem and tell them – that should help. They can then refer them to a school counsellor…oh hang on…there isn’t one. Umm…OK refer them to CAMHS, where they can be told they are not ill enough yet and to come back when they are.
Because mental health has parity with physical health now and I know that’s what child oncology departments do all the time: “You don’t have enough cancer yet, come back in 9 months when you do.”
Also, we can stop children having mental health issues anyway with some ad hoc mindfulness at primary school and teaching kids how important mental health is – yeah that should easily make up for all the environmental factors in their early years which are the actual cause of mental health problems. Hmm…maybe we will have to fund proper support for parents and children when they are very young (did someone just whisper SureStart??? How dare you! see me after).
Also what about the kids who are already teenagers and did not have the benefit of all this amazing primary school support? We should probably help them – not least because they will have children one day and we want them to be well enough to look after them properly or they might end up with mental health problems of their own. Jeez…this is complicated…it looks like we need to fund early years support, mental health awareness in schools and actual fucking psychotherapy and counselling services!
Seems a bit pricey…umm…have I told you how really, really worried I am about child mental health…