Grainne Eloi, Interim Head of Mental Health ServicesAward-winning community and mental health provider Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust will be getting behind Children’s Mental Health Week 2018, 5 – 11 February.

The week is part of children’s mental health charity Place2Be’s national campaign, which aims to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Around half of all mental health illnesses begin by the age of 14. Preventing and identifying mental health issues as early as possible is crucial to effective treatment and recovery.

In a recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) review on the quality of young people’s mental health care in England highlighted that some young people needing access to mental health services are facing waiting times of up to 18 months to get the help they need. The review found nearly 40 per cent of specialist child and adolescent services in England needed improvement.

The Care Trust, working as part of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, is bucking the trend with a maximum wait of 11 weeks for routine referrals, and within 24 hours or sooner for urgent referrals. The national wait guideline is 18 weeks.

By setting up specialist teams within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and designing new treatment pathways to enable children and young people to access services at an earlier stage, the Care Trust has reduced wait times.

Grainne Eloi, Interim Head of Mental Health Services, elaborating further said: “A wide range of initiates to support emotional wellbeing for children and young people have been rolled out by the Trust which ensure that every young person, who needs mental health support, gets effective treatment which is tailored to meet their needs, whether it be urgent crisis support or help to manage life’s ups and downs such as low mood, stress or anxiety. For example we set up a specialist eating disorder team so those in need of support can be seen quickly and be offered specialist treatment.  We also have a psychological therapy team working with children with mental health difficulties who are looked after or adopted.  With the majority of referrals that come into CAMHS, that don’t fall within those categories, we have assessment clinics to establish which service will be best for those struggling with their mental health. We have also introduced evening clinics for children and families; this has been a huge success with families and staff, offering greater flexibility and enabling children and families to access support without it impacting upon school or work.”

The Care Trust has also been working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness in schools by getting young people to talk openly about mental health. The Trust’s Mental Health Champions in Schools project enables primary mental health workers to work alongside educational psychologists to create a network of champions across the schools in Bradford.  Over 60 schools have signed up to the project where senior members of teaching staff are offered additional training about emotional health and wellbeing.  This includes six weekly specialist advice and consultation sessions delivered by primary mental health workers who guide on how to provide teaching and assemblies on emotional wellbeing.  This equips both teachers and young people with knowledge and skills about mental health and wellbeing, how to talk about it, and what can help.  This had led to young people feeling increasingly more comfortable accessing help and looking at mental health as something not to be ashamed of.

Other initiatives to enhance mental health support include the Care Trust working in partnership with charity Creative Support and Bradford Council, to offer a through-the-night urgent mental health service which provides vulnerable young people with a homely and welcoming overnight place to visit in emotional distress.  The safer space location, set in a residential area, is kept discreet following feedback from young people who helped to decide how the service would look and what should be in it.   The service is open 365 days a year from 10pm to 10am and can be accessed through the Trust’s First Response urgent mental health crisis service.

Grainne Eloi, Interim Head of Mental Health Services, concluded: “We want to continue to help those most vulnerable before they become seriously unwell through early intervention and prevention services.  Whether it’s a teenager with an eating disorder or a young person whose life has been overshadowed by mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety, we’re committed to ensuring those who experience mental health issues are offered caring support and are left feeling better-equipped with the right techniques to manage their mental health in the future.”