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In brief: Emergency youth mental health referrals triple over four years

An image of the lower half of a teenager holding a rucksack
Scott Webb | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Youth referrals to emergency mental health services 3-times higher than in 2019

NHS data analysed by the mental health charity YoungMinds has revealed the number of referrals of children to crisis teams has reached record rates.

According to the NHS monthly data, which was fully published for the first time since a cyber-attack in December 2022, more than 3,000 urgent referrals of children under 18 were recorded in April.

This marked the first time in recorded data that monthly referrals surpassed 3,000, with the number further increasing to 3,732 in May – more than three times higher than the figure reported in May 2019.

The charity's analysis also highlighted that the number of open referrals to Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CAMHS) reached a record high of 466,250 referrals in May.

Chief Executive of YoungMinds, Laura Bunt, said:

"These record-breaking figures should sound the alarm. They are indicative of a system that is broken and a government that has refused to listen to young people demanding change.

"We are now in a mental health emergency and the government must get a grip on the scale of this crisis."

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Met Police confirms it will stop attending mental health callouts despite NHS pushback, but agrees to delay start

The Metropolitan Police has announced plans to reduce mental health crisis callouts following negotiations with the NHS.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist revealed that the force will no longer respond to most of these calls, leaving them to be handled by health services.

Originally aiming for a change by 31 August, the police have agreed to delay the transition to 31 October due to concerns raised by health and social care leaders.

From that point onward, Scotland Yard officers will only attend mental emergency calls involving a risk to life, public danger, or suspected criminal activity, with the aim to address concerns about police resources being stretched by mental health calls, potentially diverting officers from other critical duties.

However, the two-month delay is unlikely to be enough time to address the serious under-resourcing of mental health services, leaving many worried that people in a mental health crisis will receive no support.

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NHS misses half of anxiety and depression cases in expectant or new mothers

According to a report from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), half of expectant or new mothers with anxiety or depression go undiagnosed.

The RCM’s report revealed that while 10% to 20% of women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after childbirth, including conditions such as anxiety and depression, around half of these cases go undiagnosed even when these women interact with healthcare professionals.

The report highlights contributing factors, such as the short duration of appointments with healthcare professionals, which limits the time available for comprehensive discussions about mental health.

Additionally, societal stigma and expectations lead around 70% of women to downplay or hide the severity of their mental health issues.

A lack of training and education about emotional health and wellbeing in some hospitals and a shortage of perinatal mental health midwives in certain maternity wards exacerbates the issue.

The RCM is calling for 350 additional midwives across the NHS to allow for better identification and support for cases of mental ill health among new and expectant mothers.

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School performance and mental health improved by integrated care services

A new study has demonstrated the positive impact of integrated mental health care on children's mental health and school performance.

The study focused on children aged 6 to 12 who received integrated behavioural health care at three federally qualified health centres (FQHCs) using the TEAM UP Model of care.

Integrated mental health services can be defined as ‘addressing mental health needs in primary care or speciality care settings,’ making it more accessible and comprehensive for patients.

The research involved 51 children receiving care from FQHCs in Massachusetts, tracking their progress over 12 months of integrated mental health care.

The results showed significant improvements in children's mental health symptoms, health-related quality of life, and school-related functional outcomes.

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Mothers with poor mental health at much greater risk of premature birth

New research has identified a link between pre-term birth risk and prior contact with mental health services.

The study analysed data from over two million pregnant women and found that women who had used mental health services within 7 years before becoming pregnant had a higher risk of pre-term birth compared with those who hadn't.

Specifically, about 1 in 10 women who had received mental health services experienced pre-term birth, compared with 1 in 15 among those who had not used such services.

Additionally, women with prior mental health service contacts had an increased likelihood of giving birth to a baby that was small for its gestational age.

The researchers suggest that understanding a woman's history of mental health service contacts before pregnancy can help identify those at higher risk of negative birth outcomes, and that improving coordination between community perinatal mental healthcare teams and local maternity services could provide more comprehensive support to pregnant women with mental health needs.

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Mental health services in NI working at over capacity

Mental health services are having to function with more patients than they can cope with in Northern Ireland, with some acute inpatient services operating at 130% capacity, according to figures obtained by UTV.

Professor Siobhan O'Neill, Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, commented:

"There's been a rise in the demand for mental health services... over the past 10 years and that's common across all the countries in the Western world, but our mental health services haven't caught up.

"There has been underinvestment again for a number of years, we are now in a situation where we don't have enough beds for people, we don't have the services.”

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