Working in a children and adolescent mental health (CAMH) clinic for 14 years I have often seen young people needing inpatient treatment sitting on paediatric medical wards at our local hospital for days whilst staff look for the inpatient therapeutic beds they need (Special report, 18 August). When they are found beds, they may be a long way from their parents, adding another layer of stress and distress for families already struggling. I suspect the “ivory towers” that Sarah Brennan refers to may well be – at least in part – CAMH, but we have worked very hard to be more accessible, more friendly and to deliver early interventions.
I agree with her that a seamless range of services should be on offer. But there is no need for “government inquiries, reviews and a new taskforce”. As clinical staff we are often “consulted” – usually by people paid eye-watering amounts of money to report on services we deliver – but rarely listened to, and there is a huge difference.
The problems are not that complex, actually, but do require funding that understands two things: mental health and young people. For example, the “transition cliff” is not so much about needing to simplify the transition process, but that it is inappropriate to transition a young person who may be chronologically 18 but emotionally 12. Looked after children, who struggle more than most with mental health problems, suffer in particular here. So, no more taskforces, please.
• Integrated CAMHS services are indeed an urgent priority (Dr Peter Hindley, 15 August). Likewise equitable access to talking therapies. My son, now 23, was badly let down by by CAMHS – we requested cognitive behavioural therpy but were told it wasn’t available. So we supplied Paul Stallard’s book Think Good, Feel Good – a wonderful resource for young people. My son liked filling in the worksheets and seemed to derive some benefit. Could CBT not be part of mainstream provision for young people?
• The juxtaposition of letters about mental ill-health and services, CAMHS in particular, and news about A-level results frustrates me. Are people not aware that the emphasis on good results – which these days seems to mean nothing less than straight A*s and As – puts some vulnerable young people at risk? I have worked in CAMHS and with suicidal and self-harming young people in the voluntary sector and would like to see more parents, teachers and members of the public and the press putting less emphasis on this narrow part of life’s high achievement. The prevailing attitude adds to the pressure and for a few young people could be the final straw.
• Safety and welfare concerns about child prisoners continue to plague our conscience (Report, 15 August). Investigations, inquests and inspection reports repeatedly document regimes where bullying, self-harm, violence and restraint are rife, with little meaningful rehabilitation or therapeutic intervention.
The children and young people who are incarcerated are no strangers to a tough life. Many of them have a history of mental ill health, drug and alcohol problems, learning difficulties, abuse, and trauma. Despite this knowledge, we have allowed 33 children to die in prisons since 1990. And rather than invest in community services that can address the reasons behind offending, ministers plan to build the largest child prison, euphemistically called a secure college. It is imperative that there be a fundamental review and radical rethink of how we respond to children in conflict with the law.
• At what point does a situation that has prevailed for years suddenly acquire the status of national scandal (Report, 18 August)? Anyone working in adolescent mental health could have flagged this one up 15 years ago. You would do better to maintain a daily front-page checklist of unresolved scandals (food banks, underpaid care-workers, arms sales, housing shortage, corrupt politicians etc) as witness to what is broken about this country, rather than give random prominence to the odd one, only for it to be consigned to oblivion for another long stretch.
Is it not time to heed the many recent studies which prove that involvement in music-making is beneficial for those suffering from depression? Listening to music, especially live music, is good for us and playing and singing can lift the spirits with no recourse to chemicals or dependence on therapists. Music-making with others is socially affirmative. Instead of downgrading music in the national curriculum and reducing young people’s access to music lessons, the government would be wise to make it a high priority.