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Campaign Of The Week Teenager fights for funding of children’s mental health care

by Ceren Sagir

MENTAL health is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the media and is more openly discussed between friends and communities, yet children’s mental health simply doesn’t receive the focus it should.

The Children’s Society reported in October that one in 10 schoolchildren have a diagnosable mental health condition, yet 75 per cent of young people experiencing problems are not receiving treatment — largely due to a lack of services.

Sixteen-year-old Rosie Lelliott from Brighton spends most of her time — when not studying for her A-levels — campaigning for an improvement to children’s mental health and petitioning to bring about a reform of the current system.

Rosie, who has been a member of the Fawcett Society and the Labour Party since the age of 14, said she struggled with severe anxiety throughout 2017 and 2018, sometimes not being able to leave the house or go to school.

“I’ve had my own experience with being referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and getting nowhere,” she told the Star.

“This was at a time that I was so desperate to get help, I was about to sit my GCSEs and around me, so many were suffering in the same way. CAMHS is not accessible to anyone and I wanted to highlight this as soon as possible.”

Rosie said that, although celebrities like Professor Green and Ariana Grande were opening up about their own mental health difficulties, young people were still not talking about it out of shame.

“I think the first step to removing stigma is to stop turning young people in crisis away from CAMHS,” she said.

“The figures that have been collected recently are absolutely shocking — there is really no doubt that among young people, there’s a mental health crisis and the government are doing nothing to solve it.”

In 2016-17 19,000 children under 18 were admitted to hospital because of self-harm, according to the children’s charity NSPCC.

Referrals of children’s mental health services in England have increased by 26 per cent over the last five years — and at least 55,000 were turned away from treatment in 2017-18, the Education Policy Institute found.

Sacked health minister Philip Dunne admitted in 2016 that the number of NHS mental health nurses has fallen by 15 per cent since the Conservatives came into power in 2010.

Increasing demands of the new education system, imposed by former education minister Michael Gove, were harming children’s mental health, Rosie said.

The new system emphasises linear exams with no coursework, leaving Year 11 students to face 24 exams in the space of four weeks.

“The government have made constant empty promises that have no integrity at all,” she said.

“CAMHS funding should include wellbeing awareness in schools, to take away the isolation that a lot of people feel.

“I would also hope that the government would take steps to reintroduce the nursing bursary so that more mental health nurses can be trained.”

The petition has gathered nearly 13,00 signatures since it began in November. Rosie says she has been touched by the amount of support it received online including from public figures such as 2015 Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander and journalist Owen Jones.

“I also heard back from the shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s office after writing to tell him about my fight for children’s mental health,” she added.

“I wrote to some Conservative MPs in my area and heard nothing back.”

Rosie is aiming for 100,00 signatures to tigger an automatic parliamentary debate and hopes to do a podcast about mental health in the near future. She has also made drafts for an e-book.

“I really strongly believe that there isn’t enough material and I hope this campaign will show other young people they’re not alone and that there’s someone fighting their corner,” she said.

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