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Concern for the mental health of county’s kids

Almost 4,000 children in West Sussex are at risk of developing poor mental health because they live with parents who are hooked on alcohol or drugs.


The figures were shared at a meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board, which heard the emotional wellbeing of some of the county’s ten and 11-year-olds was below the national average.


A report to the meeting stated:


“Particular groups of children are more likely to develop mental health problems.


“Adverse childhood experiences such as being the victim of abuse, parental alcohol/substance use, poor parental mental health, and family instability can all impact on a child’s emotional wellbeing.”


The report shared the findings of a happiness survey carried out in 2018 among 1,185 Year 6 pupils.


Half of them said they had been bullied in the past year, with verbal bullying being the most common, while one-quarter said they never spoke to parents or teachers if they had problems or worries.


The report also stated that the rate of self-harming among ten to 24-year-olds in West Sussex was higher than the national average, with young people aged 15-19 making up one-fifth of the county’s emergency hospital admissions for self-harm in 2017/18.


None of these problems was new and, in 2015, the West Sussex local transformation plan was set up the aim of improving the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.


Developed by the county council and the three clinical commissioning groups – Coastal West Sussex, Horsham and Mid-Sussex and Crawley – the plan helps to improve access to services and supports children and young people, whatever their needs.


The document has to be refreshed every year by October 31 and the meeting was given a presentation about its progress and plans going forward.


One big achievement was the launch of a face-to-face and online counselling service with YMCA Dialogue, while another was being named a mental health support teams trailblazer site. The aim is to place two teams in West Sussex schools.


While the transformation plan has seen plenty of success, the report showed there was still work to be done.


While there was an increase in the access children and young people had to emotional wellbeing and mental health services – higher then the NHS England target – the increased demand led to increased waiting lists/times.


In addition, feedback from children and their parents/carers showed the referrals process for those needing the services was not clear.


Going forward, the plan will focus on nine priority areas such as eating disorders, early intervention, prevention and targeted services and support, crisis care and urgent help, and working with the most vulnerable children and young people.


Report by Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter

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