Deborah Erskine: Doing nothing isn't an option on children's mental health

DUP MLA Deborah Erskine has said that figures within Western Trust highlighting the number of children sent to Emergency Departments by their GP for serious mental health issues are concerning but not surprising.

By Deborah Erskine MLA

Fermanagh & South Tyrone

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Mrs Erskine, who sits in the Assembly's Health Committee said, "We know the pandemic has had a devastating impact on mental health, but these issues predate Covid and are not solely a result of it.

There is a real need for investment into children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). There has been a steady increase in demand which has not been met by a similar increase in the workforce. I know from many cases raised with me the pressure that staff are under, with too few people trying to cope with record levels of demand.

It is particularly concerning however that children as young as five have needed to access these services. That is a demonstration of just how serious the situation is and it has clearly been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Education Minister has recently invested an additional £5million into the Education Wellbeing Fund. That is vital investment because evidence has shown that adolescence and young adult years are peak periods for the first onset of mental illness. This is in addition to funding from the Health Minister, but we may need to reassess exactly the level of support this sector requires.

We do have a ten-year mental health strategy, children and young people services must be prioritised. Early intervention is key to helping in later life. Yet, it is recognised that additional funding is required to deliver this. Doing nothing is not an option because without further action it will snowball and we will face a mental health crisis for generations to come.”

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