LGA urges councils and NHS to provide more help for children’s mental health

Councils and the NHS have been urged to do more to reduce mental health problems among pregnant women, new mothers and young children.

Schools, health visitors and children’s centres should become more involved in efforts to tackle the growing number of children and young people with anxiety and depression, the Local Government Association said on Thursday.

In a new report, the LGA highlights initiatives such as giving school pupils presentations at assembly on mental ill-health and self-harm, and affected children getting mentors to help them to cope, as already happens at Framwellgate secondary school, Durham.

In Walsall, school nurses run courses to help both primary and secondary students overcome anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

“What is deeply concerning is that there are substantial numbers of children and young people who are increasingly struggling with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm, in addition to a minority who face potentially life-threatening conditions such as eating disorders and psychosis”, said cllr Izzi Seccombe, the portfolio holder for community wellbeing at the LGA, which represents 370 councils.

The local government body is calling for more help to go to expectant mothers and those who have recently had a child, one in five of whom experience a mental health problem which, if untreated at the time, “can have a potentially devastating impact on a child”, Seccombe added.

Nick Harrop, media and campaigns manager at the charity Young Minds, said: “We welcome the government’s new investment in specialist mother-and-baby units, but more needs to be done. There should be more training for midwives and health visitors to ensure that they can identify signs of mental illness.”

More than 1,000 children’s centres across England have closed or been de-registered since 2010, Department for Education figures showed in April.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Offering mental health support to new and expectant mothers is vital, which is why we are giving the NHS an extra £365m by 2021 to improve perinatal mental health services. We have also increased the number of midwives and health visitors and invested in training so staff can spot the signs of perinatal mental illness.”

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