Yet again children’s mental health is in the news – and it’s not good.
Figures from 32 NHS trusts show that a staggering 60% of young people referred to Child and Adolescent mental health services by their GP are not receiving any treatment. There has been a 50% rise in under 18s being admitted to A&E because of self-harm- but the number of young people receiving outpatient treatment has fallen.
The phrase “national crisis” is perhaps one overused, but the danger behind these figures cannot be ignored. Children and young people are not getting treatment for their mental health – despite their GPs recognising that they need help.
So what can the church do to help?
Firstly, make sure you’re investing in youth work. Having a youth ministry which gives young people space to explore faith, ask the hard questions and have a community may not cure mental illness, but it gives them someone to talk to and perhaps connections with charities that can offer talking therapies.
Secondly youth workers need to ensure that they’re talking regularly about mental health; both practically and theologically. The less taboo mental health is, the earlier young people can talk about it and the more effective less intensive help can be.
Thirdly, grow your networks. There are a number of accredited counsellors who are qualified and experienced to work with children and young people; get in touch with those local to you and consider if there can be a partnership made to enable young people to access help more easily. Check out https://www.acc-uk.org for more info.
Fourthly, get the church involved. Pray corporately for mental health services and consider raising money for local projects who support children and young people.