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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Child mental health unit referrals 'up nearly 50%'

Date: 18/7/2019
Summary: Referrals to child mental health units from UK primary schools for pupils aged 11 and under have risen by nearly 50% in three years, the BBC has learned.

Replies to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from 46 health trusts indicate they rose from 21,125 to 31,531.

Seven trusts said they had rejected an individual pupil for treatment at least five times over the last four years.

The government says it is "determined to improve mental health support".

Pupils had also spent more than a year on a waiting list for mental health services at 12 different trusts.

"These figures are deeply worrying and build on evidence which shows emotional disorders in children have increased in recent years," said Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chairwoman of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

"Services for children have been historically underfunded meaning they are unable to meet increased demand," she added.

"The government's aim to provide mental health support in all schools within the next 10 years will be too little, too late for many children who need that help now."

Head teachers have told the BBC that the number of serious mental health episodes is on the rise in their schools.

One pupil was rejected for treatment on nine occasions and another spent nearly three years on a waiting list.

"We're seeing an increase year on year - more and more children with a variety of problems and it just seems to be getting harder and harder to manage", said Dani Worthington, head teacher of Moorside Community Primary School in Halifax.

"We've seen children headbutting walls, punching walls, kicking walls, and this can sometimes happen on a daily basis for these children as they're going through some sort of crisis."

Sue Blair, head teacher at Pennine Way Primary School in Carlisle, said: "I think the crisis is really acute."

She added that she is seeing self-harm in seven and eight year-olds, and pupils struggling with online bullying and eating disorders before they reach secondary school.

BBC News also sent FoI requests to 500 primary schools in England about serious mental health episodes.

It found that 191 primary school pupils had self-harmed on school grounds in the last four years, according to responses received from 155 schools.

These responses, and an account from a further school, also revealed that four pupils have attempted to kill themselves on primary school grounds over the last four years.

Source: BBC

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