Editorial

How should children’s nurses manage mental health issues?

If the number of young people with mental health problems continues to rise, nurses will need more specialist training.

If the number of young people with mental health problems continues to rise, nurses will need more specialist training.

Christine_Walker

If you read the website run by the charity YoungMinds you get a stark warning about the mental health problems that young people and the health professionals that work with them deal with.

One in ten young people aged five-16 have diagnosable mental health disorders, and between one in every 12 and one in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm.

Prime minister Theresa May has promised an overhaul of mental health care, with plans including extra training for schools and a review of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Teachers have other priorities, and there has been a reduction in the numbers of school nurses and health visitors.

‘Pre-registration courses have not equipped children’s nurses to manage self-harm’

Christine Walker

CAMHS and inpatient services are under enormous pressure, with young people having to travel many miles from their homes to get treatment. 

As the mental health of children deteriorates and specialist services bulge at the seams, it is inevitable that children’s nurses, who usually specialise in physical health, find themselves increasingly having to deal with children with mental health issues on general wards. 

Pre-registration courses have not equipped children’s nurses to recognise and manage problems such as self-harm and depression. Consequently, many nurses think they lack the skills to communicate effectively and the confidence to manage such cases successfully. 

This month’s issue features two articles from nurses who have experienced the growth in the numbers of children with mental health issues and who argue the need for more specialist training.

Rachael Bolland and colleagues discuss how workshops can improve communication between healthcare professionals and young people. Jessica Higson and colleagues describe a project culminating in a one-day training course that increased knowledge and skills among nurses who took part.

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