Photo: Public domain
Photo: Public domain

Hannah Davies, former student pastoral support worker

More than 400,000 children and young people are applying for, or are receiving, support for mental illness.

These numbers are shocking. However, this is little surprise to the workers who help and the young people themselves.

Of course, Covid isolation and home-schooling have had an impact, but these numbers were growing long before the pandemic. Tory policies have made things worse.

Mental health services have been cut to the bone, or pushed out to the third sector. Most now have no hope of ever meeting the rapidly growing demand for their services.

In my own experience, working in a school pastoral support team, children referred to mental health services were frequently told they would need to wait 12 months for an appointment. The only children getting support quicker were those with suicidal thoughts or those who had tried to take their own life. It should not have to take a child getting to this point for them to receive help.

All NHS mental health services which have been cut or privatised, need to be re-established, expanded, and nationalised – as part of the wider renationalisation of the NHS. We need investment in more mental health beds, and long-term talking-therapy solutions. Bringing back grants for nursing students, and an increase in pay and better working conditions for those working in this sector, would help rebuild the depleted numbers of mental health nurses and practitioners.

We need significant investment in preventative services to end the firefighting culture in the mental health sector. For example, investing in counsellors for schools and youth clubs, and family support services to provide opportunities for children and young people to speak to trained professionals about mental health concerns.