With 1 in 4 adults experiencing a mental illness every year in the UK. There is no hiding from the fact that mental health is a huge problem that the country and the NHS are facing today.

75% of mental illnesses start when a child is under the age of 18 and 75% of those people are not receiving treatment for their illness. Is this because people aren’t talking about mental health problems and the importance of mental health, or is it a failure of our health service not giving the sufficient funding for mental health that Britain desperately needs?

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) is a specialist NHS service offering assessment and treatment for children and young people that have emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. The CAMHS in Surrey include: Epsom, Redhill and Tandridge, Ashford, Chertsey, Frimley and Guilford.

New data from HSJ shows that in 2017-18, more than 500 children needing Tier 3 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services from CAMHS waited over a year to start their treatment. With half of the 11,482 children needing treatment waiting more than 18 weeks following their initial assessment and only 14% began treatment within four weeks.

The investigation also found children and young people are waiting unacceptably long times for their initial assessment. Only 30% of children were assessed within four weeks of referral, with 4,309 children waiting more than 18 weeks, and 992 waiting for over a year.

When 1 in 10, 5-16-year olds are suffering with mental health issues, the lack of support offered, and delivered to children and teens, is arguably the reason why suicide is the leading cause of death in young men and women (aged 20-34), as these problems weren’t addressed when the issues first arose in their younger years.

The average wait time for treatment that is actually effective is 10 years, meaning that mental health problems are left untreated until the young person reaches “crisis” – where self-harm and destructive behaviour occurs.

CAMHS is currently in “crisis” itself; with extreme underfunding, waiting lists (as long as the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress train) and an explosion of young people in “crisis” and needing immediate treatment, CAMHS simply cannot cope.

So, what can young people do to cope with their mental health problems, whilst CAMHS is trying to cope with their own funding problems? Well, there are many online services that can act as a useful aid for young people. Services such as Kooth and Childline offer online chats that young people can use to talk to councillors that will work with them to try and help the young person with the problems they are facing. CYP Havens are open all around the local area. The most recent Havens to have opened are in Guilford, Epsom, Staines and Redhill. The CYP Haven offers a safe place for 10-18-year olds to talk about their worries and mental health in a confidential, friendly and supportive environment.

CAMHS seems to be under supporting and underachieving what the young people, that I have spoken to, want from the service. Many young people under the support of CAMHS say that they do not feel truly supported by the system and feel like their wants and needs are not taken fully into consideration. A point that I found especially disappointing is that many people felt that their counsellors, physiatrist or social workers simply didn’t listen and/or care about the young person in need. This could be easily dismissed as a “typical teenage” response, however, I would argue that these thoughts that the young people (that are actually being treated) feel, demonstrate a huge failure in CAMHS, especially when CAMHS is there to support, help and treat young people suffering with mental health issues.

Through this article I aim convey the message that many young people are desperately trying to show services such as CAMHS. The message that young people in the UK are deeply suffering and in dire need of immediate help that the current services that are in place cannot fulfil. With lengthy waiting lists it seems as though only the young people who are in immediate danger, will be treated. Eventually leaving all the other people in situations where they themselves are in immediate danger, further down the line, once the issues have manifested into something bigger – something that could’ve been avoided if CAMHS had ‘pulled their socks up’ when help was first needed.

So how can CAMHS improve? Well this isn’t a simple answer, as improvements would need more sufficient funding from the government and an approach that has been adapted to the modern times, with the presence of social media influencing and inducing so many young people’s issues.

Overall, we are living in an age where 1 in 4 teenage girls have self-harmed by the time they are 14 years old. Something needs to change. It is apparent that the thing that needs to change isn’t young people and their problems but the services that are in place, that are meant to protect young people and prevent these issues from developing. CAMHS, it’s time for a change.