Children with suicidal thoughts ‘may miss out on mental health support’

Some teenagers say that suicidal feelings are not enough to get them treatment, Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield tells Commons health commitee

Children who have suicidal thoughts may not always receive mental health support, the Children’s Commissioner for England has suggested.

Some children with life-threatening mental health conditions are not getting the support they need, said the Children’s Commissioner. Picture: iStock

Speaking at a Commons health committee inquiry on Tuesday, Anne Longfield said teenagers had told her that suicidal feelings were not enough to get them treatment. She told MPs that a number of children with life-threatening conditions aren’t getting the support they need.

Ms Longfield said that mental health services for children and young people are not very child friendly, and called for more focus on early intervention.

‘I was really shocked early on in this role when 13 year olds told me that they understood that feeling suicidal would not get them treatment, having to have attempted suicide was all that they would need to do to get treatment,’ she said.

‘I thought that was quite shocking, but as I asked others it seemed to be the norm. That is something we have to take seriously.

‘That’s not to say that there aren’t brilliant services for those that do get support, but nonetheless my priority is those that aren't.’

Limited options

The Care Quality Commission’s deputy chief inspector with lead responsibility for mental health, Paul Lelliott, told the committee: ‘There has been a great increase in children and young people going to accident and emergency departments with a mental health problem, which includes having self-harmed.

‘In many parts of the country there isn’t a specialist child and adolescent mental health service worker on call out of hours to assess the person, so there is a limited range of options.’

Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price later told the hearing that the government was prioritising child and adolescent services as part of the prime minister’s focus on improving mental healthcare.

She added: ‘We know that the majority of people who have poor mental health in adulthood present before they are 18, and certainly before they are 24.

‘It is evident that the more we can do to support children and young people the more success we are going to have in looking after everyone’s mental health.’

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