Mental health problems among young people in Sidmouth deteriorating because of lack of funding

Ben Feasey at Sidmouth Youth Centre. Ref shs 06 18TI 7345. Picture: Terry Ife

Ben Feasey at Sidmouth Youth Centre. Ref shs 06 18TI 7345. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

There are urgent calls for a long-term youth mental health programme to provide preventative action and ongoing support

Di Fuller. Ref shs 15 18TI 0989. Picture: Terry Ife

Di Fuller. Ref shs 15 18TI 0989. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Young people struggling with depression, anxiety and self-harm in the Sid Valley are floundering because the support services are overstretched and underfunded.

Those are the claims of the area’s youth workers and health groups, who have descried the vicious circle in which early mental health problems go untreated and end up having disastrous effects on the young people’s education, relationships and life prospects.

They are now calling for a long-term local programme, which would be properly funded, incorporating preventative measures and ongoing support.

Sidmouth youth worker Ben Feasey spoke of a ‘spike’ in mental health problems, which are now affecting people aged 13 or even younger.

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He said: “Young people are slipping through the net.”

He explained that the threshold for receiving mental health treatment was so high that few were getting help it in time to stop their condition deteriorating.

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“We should be working with them years before, to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.

One woman told the Herald her teenage son reached the stage where he wanted to kill himself, before CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) would listen to them.

“It’s horrendous,” she said. “It takes until a child is in a desperate, desperate state before CAMHS will send anyone out.”

She added that she ended up paying for private counselling for her son.

At a Sidmouth Local Area Group meeting, which was attended by representatives from Sidmouth College, East Devon District Council (EDDC), police and other health and wellbeing organisations, there was a consensus that the core issue was funding.

Di Fuller, Sidmouth Health and Care Forum’s chairman, agrees. She said: “It’s very difficult to find the level of funding tor the support that young people need.

“There is a consensus that people’s mental health is a very big concern, but no clarity on how to get that additional funding.”

Mr Feasey said: “There are some funding pots, but the funding runs for six months or a year, and it can take three years to build up the trust of a young person.”

He believed the answer would be for central Government to invest in a statutory youth service again, which could step in at an early stage before mental problems became severe. “At the moment we’re playing catch-up,” he said.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “There are some very good schemes currently taking place across East Devon, and our Community Development Workers have a programme of activities designed to support families and young people.

“We are currently drafting our public health strategy for the next five years and we will prioritise those local activities which we are able to influence.”

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