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Scotland facing ‘lost generation’ of young people unable to access mental health support

Two teenagers - Image credit: PA Images

Scotland facing ‘lost generation’ of young people unable to access mental health support

Scotland could be facing a “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people who miss out on vital mental health support, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has said.

The warning comes as figures obtained by BBC Scotland show that referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) fell by 57 per cent between April and June 2020 in comparison with the same period the previous year.

The drops range from 28 per cent in Orkney to 80 per cent in Dumfries and Galloway, according to the data from 12 of Scotland’s 14 regional health boards.

The coalition has warned that pent up demand due to the decrease in referrals during lockdown will lead to “overwhelming and unprecedented pressure” on mental health services.

Coupled with cuts to youth work, this will create a “perfect storm” of increased demand and reduced services that could lead to vulnerable children and young people missing out on the support they need, it has said.

In addition, it noted that self-isolation and social distancing will have had an impact on young people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression but that even the most resilient children will need extra support as they navigate the transition back to the new normal.

The coalition is urging the Scottish Government to invest significantly in mental health services as children return to school and to ensure that teachers and other staff are aware of the services on offer for young people needing support.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a ‘perfect storm’ for our young people, with increased demand coupled with cuts in services.

“While referrals have dropped during lockdown and children are not accessing support, we are storing up immense problems for the future as mental health services face being overwhelmed due to greatly increased demand.

“The Government needs to work urgently with the relevant authorities to ensure that not only is there sufficient provision available at the local level, but that this is clearly communicated and easily accessible for young people and their parents or carers.

“Mental health services must be given funding and resources equal to that of physical health provision and this pandemic has ushered in an urgency and necessity that cannot be ignored.

“Not just the NHS but also third sector and other independent organisations who play such a key role in addressing mental health services must receive the funding they vitally need or we face having a ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.”

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