Healthwatch Essex report underpins new plan to improve mental health for children and young people

Essex, Southend and Thurrock today launched a £3.3 million plan to improve mental health for children and young people. The findings of the YEAH! report in which we engaged over 400 young people, underpin the proposed service overhaul.

Some of the relevant findings from the Healthwatch Essex YEAH! report were:

  • 8 in 10 young people had received no mental health information, and did not know how to get mental health support
  • 9 in 10 wanted to learn about mental health
  • Many young people would like compulsory education about mental health, and felt that education and awareness would help reduce the stigma and isolation around mental health conditions
  • Young people who had had experience of the mental health service said it was hard to get referred for treatment, that waiting times were too long, and that sometimes follow-up appointments didn’t materialise
  • Participants often felt that GPs did not understand mental health issues in young people, or treat them seriously, which can discourage them from seeking the help they need.

The ‘Open Up, Reach Out’ plan sets out how mental health services for children and young people in Essex will be change over the next five years. Some of the planned improvements include:

  • Nearly £1m per year extra to expand services for eating disorders
  • Enhanced crisis services working 9am-9pm, 7 days a week
  • An increase in staff providing single points of access in each local authority area – Essex, Southend and Thurrock – making it easier for young people, families and professionals to get the support they need
  • Special training and support for schools and other places that help children and young people.

The plan has been built around feedback from what young people say, including those who took part in the Healthwatch Essex YEAH! report. In a recent assessment by NHS England, the “Open Up, Reach Out” plan was rated the highest in the Midlands and East region.

Hannah Fletcher, Healthwatch Essex Project Officer and author of the YEAH! Report, said: “It’s great to see that the voice of the young people we engaged with last summer has been heard by decision-makers and is really making a difference. The young people we spoke to said they wanted to have a greater awareness of mental health conditions and the support services available, and it’s especially encouraging to see the plan addressing this.

Clare Morris, former Chief Officer of NHS West Essex CCG and lead commissioner for children’s mental health, said: “We are one of a very few areas in the country to combine our funds and create a countywide emotional wellbeing and mental health service for children and young people. With a single service and pooled resources we can achieve bigger and better things with early intervention and building resilience. As well as an increase in services, we are building a cultural revolution that makes mental health everybody’s business.”

The “Open Up, Reach Out” plan has been produced by a partnership of the ten authorties that cover the county of Essex. These are the seven Essex Clinical Commissioning Groups, Essex County Council, Southend-on-sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council.