Mixed messages and foot dragging- the government’s response to the CAMHS crisis

Care minister Alistair Burt does seem to care about mental health. He talks well on the need for improvement and family engagement, which is why the announcements on CAMHS this morning are so underwhelming.
Firstly, an NHS choices website “helping parents to spot the difference between normal adolescent behaviour and medical problems”. Let’s just unpack that for a moment. So the aim is to help parents to decide if it’s just teenagers being teenagers, in which case they can be told to shut up, or if there’s a ‘medical problem’ in which case this sick person needs treatment. I’m no blanket critic of mental health diagnosis, but this dichotomy seems unhelpful and stigmatising.
So it’s ironic that the second thing they are doing is an anti stigma campaign, aimed at persuading young people that ‘mental illness is nothing to be scared of’. You know what, it’s not nothing to be scared of. It can be terrifying, and messages like this devalue people’s experience. The problem isn’t people’s fear of their own emotions and behaviour, it’s the unhelpful and unsympathetic responses of other people and institutions.
Finally, the thing that will ‘usher in a new age of treatment’ for the ongoing crisis in children’s and young people’s mental health, for all the cutting, the school exclusions, the eating disorders, the lives lost and ruined, is….. A survey that will be available in 2018. Slow hand clap, minister.


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