Many of you willknow that children’s mental health has been one of my biggest priorities as your MP for Twickenham.
I’ve been struck by the number of parents getting in touch to ask for help in accessing support for their children’s mental health needs. Locally and nationally – first as the Liberal Democrats’ Health, Social Care & Wellbeing spokesperson and now as Education spokesperson – I have sought to make the case for good wellbeing and mental health support in schools, in the community and in specialist NHS provision. For too long, children’s mental health has been the Cinderella of mental health services.
Even before the pandemic, it was an issue that needed urgent attention – but the pandemic has exacerbated this need. NHS Digital reports that in 2017, one in nine young people aged six to 16 had a diagnosable mental health condition. That rose to one in six in 2021. During my frequent visits to both primary and secondary schools across the local area, I have witnessed firsthand – and repeatedly heard from headteachers, parents and staff – that mental health is the single biggest issue facing our young people.
Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) referrals are at their highest levels, and many schools are struggling to meet the needs of their pupils. In turn, this has an impact on the wellbeing of staff. All of this means that mental health recovery must be prioritised alongside academic catch-up.
To gain a better understanding of these pressures, I’ve sent out a mental health questionnaire to our local schools. The aim is to gather consistent data about the scale of the mental health crisis in schools and highlight where there are gaps in counselling and support services.
Early intervention is key. We know that half of all mental health conditions present themselves by the age of 14, and three quarters by the age of 24. Our children deserve the very best start in life. We will be failing them if we do not ensure the right support is in place for every child to reach their full potential.
• Learn about Children’s Mental Health Week (February 7 – 13):
• Contact local charities who help young people struggling with their wellbeing:
Off the Record (otrtwickenham.com) and
The Purple Elephant Project (thepurpleelephantproject.org).
Munira Wilson, MP
call 020 8977 0606 for her constituency office;or 020 7219 6474 for her parliamentary office