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Mental health support for children and young people attending the Emergency Department

Ella Fincham smaller
Mental health support for children and young people attending the Emergency Department
11 February 2022

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week (7 to 13 February) and this year’s theme is growing together, finding ways to grow emotionally, and finding ways to help each other grow.

As part of healthy development, children and young people need opportunities to explore new things, to experiment and to challenge themselves physically and mentally. However, over the last couple of years, things have not been ideal for young people, with many struggling to cope with the changes and restrictions imposed throughout the pandemic. 

NHS Digital have reported that 1 in 6 children aged 5 to 16 are likely to have a mental health condition and that 39% of 6 to 16 year olds have experienced deterioration in mental health since 2017.

We have introduced within our Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Liaison team, dedicated support for children and young people who attend the Emergency Department (A&E) with mental health concerns, including those in crisis. They also support children and young people admitted to the paediatric ward for their safety, for observation or treatment. The team are responsive and ensure that young people’s immediate mental health care needs are met and that they feel at ease during their mental health assessment.

They provide a consistent point of contact for young people and families, helping to connect them to other services and mental health providers, including Barnardo’s, the Isle of Wight Youth Trust and No Limits. This pilot service was introduced in June 2021 and the team include 3 Mental Health Assistant Practitioners.

This service, which is being piloted includes a team of 3 Mental Health Assistant Practitioners.

Chris Ainsworth, Clinical Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities said: “Children and young people’s mental health couldn’t be more important, particularly at this time with many returning to normal school routines after two years of upheaval. The impact of the constant disruptions over this period has been particularly tough on young people and in some cases, it has impacted negatively on their emotional growth and mental wellbeing.  

“This team provides compassionate care at a time when many of these young patients are experiencing mental health distress, enabling them to talk freely about their emotional difficulties within a supportive environment.”

Ella Fincham, Children and Young People’s Assistant Practitioner said: “We spend time with the child or young person in the emergency department, ensuring they are comfortable and that they feel at ease when being assessed for further treatment. We do this by providing therapeutic resources or games or simply by having a conversation with a cup of tea and a biscuit. This helps to build a rapport with the individual and helps to ease any anxieties they might have during this process.

We also work with children and young people who are admitted to the children’s ward to ensure their safety, for observation or treatment. We provide tailored resources and activities including colouring, books, mindfulness techniques or depending on age, toys to ensure that the environment is stress free.”

Accessing support:

  • NHS 111 can be used to access support in a mental health crisis. If you think you need A&E, call NHS 111 first.
  • Local mental health support information is published in the Little Book of Sunshine
  • Resource and advice available on the Young Minds website 

How to get involved in the week:

Place2Be who are the organisers of Children’s Mental Health Week recognise the important role that parents and carers play in supporting their children’s mental health and wellbeing. They have provided a range of free resources including tips, and activities to help families and carers take part in the week, available online

Join the online conversation using #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek

Links to statistics:  

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