Much More Action Is Needed To Solve The Children's Mental Health Crisis

09/05/2017 11:42 BST | Updated 09/05/2017 11:42 BST

With children's mental health problems on the rise, it's clear that young people who are suffering need our support more than ever.

Health professionals strive to help children and young people get the right treatment to help them recover from their mental health issues every day.

However, despite their hard work, I fear that too often there's a lot of talk and not enough action when it comes to finding solutions.

I noticed this when I sat in on a CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) consultation between a teenager experiencing mental health problems, his parents and a clinical psychologist.

This young person was suffering from anxiety and was missing school regularly as well as suffering bouts of unexplained physical pain.

The family were desperate and had been waiting for this session for nearly six months. They now needed to hear how their son was going to be helped.

The session, despite best intentions, was essentially a counselling session, and not the clinical support session I expected to see.

The family didn't know what to expect or ask for.

Reducing waiting times for children's mental health support will help prevent children from getting more seriously ill whilst they wait for help.

There was no apparent sense of a clinical diagnosis underpinning the approach being taken by the health professional nor any attempt to explain to the young person or his parents what the plan of 'treatment' will or could be.

And when it came to agreeing a time for the next session, everything revolved around the limited availability of the clinical psychologist and not the young person nor his parent's availability.

It's clear to me that despite mental health rising up the agenda and increasing public awareness, we still have much further to go to ensure that children and young people with mental health problems get the right help at the right time.

As Mental Health Awareness week begins this is an issue that we must urgently get to grips with instead of just talking around it.

Barnardo's helps children realise it's okay to talk about mental health and it's okay to ask for help.

There is no area of Barnardo's work that doesn't deal with young people's mental health in some form or other - supporting and promoting good mental health is a vital strand that runs through all of our work supporting the most vulnerable children and young people to achieve their potential.

So we know early intervention is crucial to treating mental health issues before they get worse and Barnardo's believes schools and colleges have a big part to play.

Barnardo's wants to see a 'whole school' approach which creates an environment where students are able to learn and develop self-confidence, a secure understanding of their own wellbeing, and know it's okay to talk about mental health.

Training teachers to spot the signs and know how and where to help young people get the right help is a critical next step.

And when a mental health problem is identified, it is vital that children get quality support as soon as possible.

Reducing waiting times for children's mental health support will help prevent children from getting more seriously ill whilst they wait for help.

Children like Rachel, who before working with Barnardo's refused to attend school for a year after being bullied and was self-harming.

By working with us, she and thousands like her have realised it's 'okay' to talk about mental health and it's 'okay' to ask for help.

Now the responsibility falls to the next Government to change the system so every child who needs help gets it.

Whoever is announced as the next Prime Minister needs to tackle the issue by bringing forward firm plans to improve children's mental health.

Startling figures show tackling this problem will not be an easy task - with half of all lifetime cases of mental illness beginning by age 14, and three quarters developing by 18.

These are some of the most vulnerable children in society but with the right help and support they can go on to live healthy and happy lives.