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Council wants to help plug gaps in youth mental health services

Friday, May 13th, 2022 6:00am

By Jessica Hubbard - Local Democracy Reporter

A local council will ask organisations providing youth mental health services in West Sussex to outline what support is available so it can offer its help.

Arun district councillors will ask West Sussex County Council and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to outline services for young people ‘in crisis’ and how the district council can help.

This was suggested by Samantha-Jayne Staniforth (Con, Orchard) and David Edwards (Con, Felpham East).

Speaking on Wednesday, Councillor Staniforth said: “It affects people who are not quite adults yet but they’re old enough to be experiencing all of life’s pressures.” She said covid ‘undoubtedly affected’ young people’s mental health, adding that they can find it difficult to access services. They’ve missed a lot of school,” she said, “Not only are they working all week, they’re also working on the weekend and all of this is adding extra pressure to families. Half of all mental health conditions present themselves by the age of 14 and three quarters by the age of 24 and this is why early intervention is so crucial. We have an enormous opportunity as a council to talk openly about this in our town and to bring mental health issues out of the shadows. We want to let these people know that they are not alone and that by asking for help it’s actually a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Whilst it is not strictly the district council’s responsibility to provide mental health services, councillor Staniforth has asked how the authority can support organisations that do.

“There are many other agencies that deal with this but we all know these services are hugely under funded and a lot of them are being pulled completely,” she said.

“My thoughts have been constantly with people I’ve spoken to who have lost young ones and they’re struggling day to day with mental health.”

James Walsh (LDem, Beach), a former Rustington and Littlehampton GP of 40 years, said: “My entire professional life I have been battling for better child and adolescent mental health services.” He said these services had ‘always been under funded and under resourced’.

“There’s reasonable access to counselling services for children and young people at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’, there is reasonably quick provision for those in utter crisis at the top of the pyramid,” he said.

“But the vast majority of children and young people fall into the middle area where they are not properly provided for and many of them run the risk of slipping into the top tier – the crisis situation of being at risk of suicide or self harming.”

Councillor Edwards said that, whilst stigma surrounding mental health issues had decreased, ‘we can’t afford to just pat ourselves on the back’.

He said WSCC had done a ‘huge amount of work’ to get services ‘back to a satisfactory level’ after they were rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2019.

But, he added: “We’re seeing youth services still losing funding, meaning we’re losing buildings, services are being streamlined.”

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