Children and Mental Health Services — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:28 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 3:28 pm, 16th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate Andrew Griffiths on securing this important debate, and my hon. Friend Mrs Hodgson, who secured a debate on the issue in the main Chamber last week.

Good mental health is important to us all, especially in childhood and adolescence. If mental health problems in childhood and adolescence are not properly treated, they can continue into adult life. It is not a problem for just one part of the country. It is truly a national crisis. I appreciate that much of the debate will focus on children’s mental health services in England, but I want to highlight the situation in Scotland. The number of young people in Scotland who took their own lives increased by 50% last year—I repeat: there has been a 50% increase in suicides among young children in Scotland. We are losing young people, who have so much to offer, but who find themselves suffering in silence. It is a national tragedy across the UK. The Scottish Government pledged to reduce the number of suicides in Scotland by 20% by 2022. If that pledge is to be met, there needs to be some serious action to improve mental health support for children and young people in Scotland.

The children and young people’s mental health taskforce made a series of recommendations, including joint working between the Scottish Government and local government, to reform the way that mental health support is provided. I urge the Scottish Government to enact those recommendations in full. I back the call of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition for an increase in investment in specialist mental health services and I hope that the Scottish Government respond positively.

Investment alone is not the answer, however; we need to tackle the underlying causes of mental health issues among children and young people. Some 60% of young people in Scotland say that the pressure to succeed has led them to feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. One in five young people say that they are ashamed of the way they look. Others have experienced mental health issues as a result of their school environment.

We have to look for new ways to support the mental wellbeing of children and young people, which is why I welcome the “Give Youth A Chance” petition, started by the families of three young men who took their lives in Lanarkshire. The petition calls for suicide prevention and mental health support programmes to become mandatory in schools across England and perhaps the UK. That would be a positive step to ensure that the mental health support needed by children and young people was more readily accessible.

The state of children and young people’s mental health services is a national crisis. They are being let down across the UK by inadequate funding for specialist services and growing waiting lists. It is time for the Scottish Government and the UK Government to listen.