Labour’s Micklegate councillor Jonny Crawshaw introduced a motion at City of York Council to better tackle the issues of mental health problems in young people. The issue was raised as the most significant concern among the over 5,000 young people from York who took part in the 2018 UK Youth Parliament’s “Make Your Mark” survey.
“Poor mental health in children and young people in York is a big problem and one that we shouldn’t shy away from talking about,” Cllr Crawshaw said. “The statistics paint a worrying picture; we have the highest rate of A&E admissions for self harm amongst 10 to 24-year-olds in the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region, we are in the top three for suicides in the region, and thresholds for accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are so high that it can take months or longer for children and young people to access support, even when they experience serious problems.
“Add to that high numbers of young people experiencing eating disorders or being diagnosed with anxiety disorder, not to mention a worrying rise in substance misuse amongst under 18s, and we’re seeing a very troubling situation unfolding.
“The local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is in massive debt and not allocating funding to mental health services at the level it ought to be, while the high stakes testing environment we put our children and young people through in our education system only serves to generate mental health problems or exacerbate existing ones. It’s a perfect storm and the situation will only get worse if we as a city don’t step up and meet this challenge head on”.
Cllr. Janet Looker, Labour’s group leader in council, added “Change needs to come not only at the local level through better support but also through a change to the exam factory system of schooling which doesn’t turn out emotionally happy and independent thinking young people. Sadly we’re at risk of failing a whole generation.”
Cllr Crawshaw’s motion to council called for the involvement of relevant youth groups in consultations on the sufficiency of CAMHS support services in the city, to call on the Vale of York CCG to make more funding available for CAMHS, and for the Executive Leader of the council to write to the Secretary of State for Education, expressing deep concern at the negative impact of insufficient school funding and other issues on young people’s emotional health and wellbeing.
An amendment from Conservative councillor Paul Doughty attempted to water down the motion, but met with a poor response in the chamber and was voted down by a large majority.
Maisie Outhart, Deputy Member of York’s Youth Parliament, spoke to the council on the pressures being put on the young by arbitrary targets being placed on them by standard testing, and how they are made to feel a failure if they do not meet the targets. The meeting was also addressed by the mother of a young child suffering anxiety and depression, who spoke emotionally about the difficulty of accessing services due to unduly lengthy waiting lists.
The motion, unamended, was carried unanimously.