Nurses call for 'investment in the mental health of children'

UK governments must act, RCN congress told
Mental health

A continuing lack of nurses in schools will worsen the existing crisis in child mental health.

This was the unanimous view of members attending RCN congress in Glasgow today as they voted 100% in favour of lobbying the governments in the UK to reverse cuts in funding.

The resolution came from children and young people staying healthy forum member and school nurse Corina Christos.

She told delegates: ‘Children are less well equipped than ever to deal with problems, learn from them and move on.

Corina Christos warned that children are less well than equipped than ever to deal with problems. Picture: John Houlihan

‘Rates of depression have risen 40% in teenagers over the past 25 years and one in five 15-year-olds have self-harmed.’

First year mental health nursing student Simon Mackey revealed the figure for Northern Ireland of under 19s coming to emergency units in 2013 was 5,000.

Problems will continue

He added: ‘If we can’t help children progress through whatever their problems are now, it’s going to continue all through their adult lives.’

Children’s nurse Andrew McGovern called on more investment for specialist mental health beds for children and added: ‘Children’s wards in general district hospitals are not the proper place for them.’

Nurse Alison Upton said she had self-harmed at the age of 11 and then had to endure a 3-year wait to be diagnosed.

She said: ‘There was little support 10 years ago, there’s even less now.’

Alison Upton: less support than ever. Picture: John Houlihan

RCN research has found at least three children in every classroom now experience a mental health problem.

It added the number of school nurses has fallen by 10% since 2010 to only 2,700 caring for more than 9 million pupils.

Heavy workload

Seventy per cent of these said their current workload was too heavy, while more than a quarter work over their contracted hours every day.

General secretary Janet Davies said: ‘All children deserve access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

‘Only by investing in school nursing and wider mental health services, can this crisis be tackled and children be given the best chance possible of leading happy and healthy lives.’

The vote was the first of this congress to allow all members to hold up their For, Against or Abstain voting cards at the same time - rather than in blocks - to avoid members being singled out for their decisions.