Summary of report content
Healthwatch Darlington’s ‘What’s important to you ‘survey’ 2019 highlighted for the second consecutive year in a row that children and young people’s mental health was still a priority for service users living in Darlington, and decided to revisit the issue in 2020. They spoke to 877 people via a survey and focus groups.
When analysing the findings both young people and parents indicted that they mostly used CAMHS but this was often with another service such as a school counsellor. Overall, the waiting period is still too long, with some individuals reporting more than 9 months wait after an initial appointment. Whilst the waiting target is something that might take time to improve, a number of suggestions were made as to how to improve information and support during the waiting period.
Both young people and parents felt that body image and bullying were key contributors to poor mental health. Many young people would go to a parent/carer for support and help with these issues. A proportion of parents didn’t know where to go for this information, which suggests that this is not always the best option for support.
Young people had a sound knowledge of what was available within the educational setting to help support their mental health with a range of support identified. However, a larger proportion of parents were unsure of what support was available. This might be a problem for some young people who rely more heavily on a parent for support in school/college to get the help they need. Many feel more education and awareness is needed within schools.
When talking to both young people and parents about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have strongly indicated that when it comes to healthcare appointments in the future, the choice is important and that face to face must remain an option, especially when it comes to mental health. The ‘Attend anywhere’ scheme has helped young people with choice during the pandemic but when it comes to more choice as lockdown eases they would have a preference for face to face.
Young people who have used services for mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic have reported a mixture of experiences. They feel that sometimes the service was not suitable. Some families have felt that communication between services and schools has been disjointed and that this need improving in the future. As the research was undertaken in the summer of 2020, people were worried about returning to school/college and whether they will get enough support.
The report contains 12 recommendations aimed at improving mental health services for children and young people both generally and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report also contains a response from providers outlining the action they intend to take as a result of the research.