Health and social care commissioners are failing to address the mental health needs of young people, according to a report by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.
Two out of three joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs) do not specifically address children and young people’s mental health, and data most commonly used to estimate the prevalence of mental health need is almost a decade old.
Local authorities and primary care trusts are tasked with producing a JSNA, detailing the health and wellbeing of the local population. These assessments are used to inform policy and strategic commissioning decisions.
The report, Overlooked and Forgotten, looks at how the mental health of children and young people is being prioritised in the current commissioning landscape. Problems with mental health in adults are often rooted in childhood and the report says it is vital to invest in effective services for children and young people to prevent the cycle of mental health problems from developing or worsening. In addition to the health benefits for individuals, this approach would also save money by preventing the development of long-term needs.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, welcomed, the report, saying that 75 per cent of adult mental health problems begin before the age of 18. “…it is important that the Department of Health commissions a new survey of the prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people, to ensure they get the right support and treatment they need as early as possible”, she said.
The report calls on health and wellbeing boards to ensure that all JSNAs include a section specifically about children and young people’s mental health needs, using a range of data to estimate local levels and types of need. This should include a focus on infant mental health. It also makes a number of specific recommendations to the DoH and Public Health England calling on them to provide clear guidance on how to assess children and young people’s mental health and how to gather, disseminate and use data on mental health to inform policy and practice.
The report is available at: