Councillor leads bid to help address the ‘invisible’ problem of self-harm in Sidmouth

Matt Booth

Matt Booth - Credit: Archant

More dedicated support services for young people with mental health issues welcomed

Efforts to provide a dedicated support service for young people with mental health issues in Sidmouth - and address an often ‘invisible’ problem - have been welcomed.

An estimated 14,906 of the 10 - 19 age population in Devon are likely to self-harm, according to a needs assessment report of July 2015 that highlights a ‘prevalent’ and growing concern.

The study, undertaken by Public Health Devon, also indicates self-harm hospital admission rates in the county to be significantly higher than elsewhere in the country - with numbers on the rise from 376.6 per 100,000 in 2007-08 to 419.5 in 2012-13.

It warns the majority of incidents in which people self-harm are thought to be undisclosed and therefore ‘invisible’ to professionals.

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A £2,700 bid from Sidmouth Town Council aims to take the first steps towards addressing what has become a ‘serious problem’ - and the funds would facilitate setting up a group of young people to work with trained personnel in identifying help needed.

Councillor Matt Booth is one of the driving forces behind the project and said it was born out of a recognised need to address the situation in Sidmouth. He told the Herald: “What we want to do is get young people around the table who want to do something about it. This came about because there is an expressed awareness by a number of people connected to the health and care forum that there was a situation to do with self-harm that did need to be addressed in Sidmouth. It’s not just self-harm, but also things like depression and anxiety.

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“It’s the responsibility of all concerned to try and find solutions to help these people out, which is why we need to do it and we need to get it right.”

He added that an ideal solution would follow a similar vein to The Project in Axminster, which has gained national recognition as a ‘vital lifeline’ for young people with mental health issues and provides an independent, drop-in service for them and their families.

Cllr Booth said the Exeter-based Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is over-subscribed and often not easily accessible for children and teens in the Sid Valley.

Matt White, vice principal of Sidmouth College, said: “Young people experience mental health challenges and, as an education provider, we feel it is of paramount importance that they receive the right support. The school works alongside other professionals and any extra provision for young people in Sidmouth and surrounding areas would be welcomed.”

The Sid Valley Practice was unable to give any details on the number of young patients it sees with mental health issues, but confirmed it would welcome any additional support in the town.

This comes as Prime Minister Theresa May highlighted the issue as a government priority - stating mental illness has been a ‘hidden injustice’ shrouded in a ‘completely unacceptable stigma’ for too long, promising more support for young people.

Councillor Tom Wright chairs the East Devon District Council (EDDC) panel that makes decisions on the Parishes Together Fund – a joint EDDC and Devon County Council (DCC) initiative – which has recommended that the £2,700 be granted to Sidmouth Town Council.

Speaking about the application at an EDDC cabinet meeting last week, he said: “People sometimes overlook that places like East Devon do have issues.

“I hope to see more applications for this sort of thing.”

The Parishes Together fund is designed to provide financial solutions to local issues and contributes £1.10 per elector - £1 from DCC and 10p from EDDC – to a central pot which parish and town councils can apply for funding towards community projects

The district authority’s contribution comes from the New Homes Bonus which provides additional revenue as a payback for house building.

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