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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:34 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) 3:34 pm, 16th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank Andrew Griffiths for securing this extraordinary debate, in which there have been many contributions from both sides of the House and many interventions, which shows that the issue is a high priority in our constituencies. It is important that the subject was brought to this Chamber. His speech was detailed, extensive and passionate. I congratulate him on being an assiduous representative of his constituents.

We have heard about the main issues; I will not go through them all again but point some out. Workforce is obviously a problem, as are training, access to services, prevention, treatment, trauma and eating disorders. We have also heard about social media and how technology can be helpful in signposting people, but can also undermine mental health in young people, so appropriate safeguards must be put in place.

We have heard constituency cases from across the United Kingdom. The Office for National Statistics shows that the highest rate of suicide is in north-east England and Wales, but all Governments across the United Kingdom need to make tackling suicide a priority. I thank the Minister, who has been working hard on it and has made significant progress. The problem is, however, that we had such a long way to go that we are not yet where we want or need to be.

I thank the British Psychological Society and the Paediatric Psychology Network UK for sending me their updates and views. They pointed out the problem with access to child and adolescent mental health services and that the services continue to be run on medical models, so if a young person presents with suicidal thoughts or behaviours, unless they have a concomitant mental disorder such as depression or an eating disorder, they do not always gain access to the treatment part of CAMHS. That is wrong, because not every young person will be medically classified as having a disorder, but may need access to coping skills, treatments, counselling and perhaps family therapy. They may have social issues, rather than a condition that requires a medical diagnosis, but they still need access to crisis care to prevent suicide.

That has been brought home to me in the last couple of weeks, as we have suffered our own tragedy in East Kilbride. Ryan Coleman, a young man with his whole life ahead of him, took his own life. This weekend, I am going to a tribute event to mark his life and what he had accomplished in such a short space of time, and to support his family and friends. Families should not have to go through such tragedies, however, and Parliament must do more.

I thank the Trust Jack Foundation in Stonehouse, which has set up young people’s services to bridge the gap and make sure that something happens between a referral to CAMHS and being seen by CAMHS. It gives young people access to support from other young people who experience mental health issues and to support-based activities and therapies. Again, that came out of a personal tragedy—the loss of Jack—which his mother, a wonderful woman, has turned into a positive thing for other children across the area. I cannot thank her enough.

Transitions are important; we need to focus on the transition from child to adult mental health services, and services in colleges and universities. Will the Minister think about the children who have lost a parent serving in the armed forces, and update me on that? A couple of weeks ago, I went to an event with the armed forces parliamentary scheme where I found out that there is a lot of work going on in the US to support young people who lose a parent in service, but there is no much support, treatment and access to services in the UK. Obviously, children who lose a parent serving in the armed forces also lose their home and support network. They have to make dramatic adjustments, and for young people, that is a critical time.

Governments across the United Kingdom are trying their best to improve services, but we have a very long way to go. I want to help everybody in Westminster and the other Governments to achieve the progress we need.