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‘I wasn’t deemed sick enough’: The crisis in children’s mental health services | UK News

Mia was just 10 years old when she and her family knew she needed mental health support. 

But their attempts to access help were met with delays and denials that lead to such a severe deterioration in her condition it nearly cost Mia her life.

“I wasn’t deemed sick enough, I was told it was fine and there was nothing wrong with me”, Mia explains. “I was telling them, ‘this is not normal’, and they didn’t listen.”

But Mia was struggling. Her mental health was worsening and would eventually reach crisis point.

“By the time I was 12 I was self-harming. I felt like some days I couldn’t cope with the day but I was still performing well academically and that, when you’re a kid in this country, that is how they mark your wellbeing.”

It was when Mia turned 15 that help eventually came but only after she suffered a breakdown. She was arrested for false imprisonment and criminal damage after an attack on her teacher, and eventually admitted to a psychiatric unit.

Mia believes earlier intervention would have prevented her deterioration into crisis.


“I would have killed myself. I would have. Mental health care is lifesaving, just as lifesaving as cardiac care, just as lifesaving as diabetes care. You cannot live a healthy, happy life if you are mentally unwell, without support.”

Mia’s story about her struggle to access the right mental health care at the right time exposes a system in crisis. Children and young adults across the country are being forced to endure long waits for specialist care and demand continues to grow.

NHS England estimates a quarter of all 17 to 19-year-olds now have a probable mental health disorder compared to one in 10 just six years ago.

David Barker and his team at Youth Talk offer free confidential counselling for 13 to 25-year-olds.

But they are overrun with record numbers of children and young people in need of help.

The charity has doubled its capacity – but even this is not enough.

Mr Barker told Sky News: “Before the pandemic there was a crisis of young people struggling with their mental health, the pandemic has compounded all of that, hugely, and as a result of that we’re seeing a long tail of the COVID pandemic in terms of mental health and particularly young people.”

Community health services are also struggling. A survey of NHS Providers found that children are now waiting an average of 91 weeks for an autism spectrum disorder assessment and between 72 and 207 weeks for an ADHD assessment.

Read more:
Seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – isn’t just ‘winter blues’
Student mental health problems almost tripled in recent years – study

Jenna Hughes speaks to Sky News
Jenna Hughes speaks to Sky News

Jenna Hughes had to wait three years for a diagnosis for her eldest child Amelia.

Her youngest, Imogen, has already been waiting for a year. Caring for Amelia and Imogen without any extra help is having an impact on everyone in the family.

“I’ve struggled with my mental health,” Jenna says. “Because of the level of care my children need. That’s hard on my family. The NHS is overrun but it puts so much pressure on families, and strain and stress.”

Demand is only expected to increase.

And if there is no urgent action, healthcare providers like the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust predict that by next year their community waiting lists for children and young people will have more than doubled since the pandemic.

Its chief executive Elliot Howard-Jones said the biggest challenge for his trust in responding to the growing crisis was finding the right staff.

“It’s absolutely not where we want to be, we want to have much shorter waiting times for children, it significantly affects their life chances and their educational attainment if we don’t see them quickly.

“The biggest challenge in terms of community services is not the vision for what we want to do which is clearly to support people at home and to help children develop as best as they can, it’s getting the staff and growing the service quickly enough to be able to respond.”

Mia is 21 now. She is in the final year of a wild animal biology degree at the Royal Veterinary College after passing her A levels with top grades.

But the outcome could have been very different and for the many thousands of children still struggling it will be unless the crisis in children’s mental health is addressed urgently.

King’s coronation: Farmer and former children’s TV presenter given major roles in ceremony | UK News

A farmer and former children’s television presenter will play major historical roles in the King’s coronation as Buckingham Palace announces more details about the Westminster Abbey ceremony.

Francis Dymoke will act as the King’s champion during the 6 May coronation – an ancient duty that involves carrying the Royal Standard.

The former accountant turned farmer is the 34th generation of his family to run the Scrivelsby country estate in Lincolnshire – with the King’s champion role unusually attached to the land rather than his family.

The role began in William the Conqueror’s reign and involved riding a horse into Westminster Hall during the coronation banquet and challenging anyone who denied the sovereign’s right to the throne to fight.

The Prince of Wales speaks with Baroness Floella Benjamin (centre) during the annual Commonwealth Day Reception hosted by the King and the Queen Consort at Buckingham Palace in London for the Commonwealth Secretary-General, High Commissioners, Foreign Affairs Ministers and other members of the Commonwealth community. Picture date: Monday March 13, 2023.
The Prince of Wales spoke to Baroness Floella Benjamin last month

Meanwhile, Floella Benjamin, who is now an author and peer, will carry King Charles’s sceptre – traditionally known as the Rod Of Equity And Mercy – which represents his spiritual role.

Baroness Benjamin, who used to present Play School, said: “I feel honoured and privileged to be part of the historic coronation ceremony.

“To be selected to carry the Sovereign’s Sceptre With Dove, which represents spirituality, equity and mercy, is for me very symbolic as it’s everything I stand for and sends out a clear message that diversity and inclusion is being embraced.”

More on King’s Coronation

Buckingham Palace has released details of the dukes, bishops, peers and retired generals who are set to take on ceremonial duties when the King and Queen Consort are crowned, from carrying regalia in a procession to presenting the items to the royal couple.

The order of procession into Westminster Abbey has also been revealed, with faith leaders and representatives going first followed by governors-general, prime ministers and flag bearers from each of the 15 realms where the King is head of state.

Read more:
The nine key figures in King Charles’s coronation ceremony
The meaning of the crowning ceremony explained

Some of these countries, including Belize and Jamaica, have previously indicated they will move to become a republic.

Ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty, the UK’s flag bearer will be Cadet Warrant Officer Elliott Tyson-Lee.

Rishi Sunak with his wife, Askhata Murty outside 10 Downing Street
Rishi Sunak with his wife, Akshata Murty

The King and Queen Consort’s procession will follow, led by the Marquess of Anglesey, the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Caledon and the Earl of Dundee, who will carry the Standards of the Quarterings of the Royal Arms and the Standard of the Principality of Wales.

Buckingham Palace said: “Those undertaking these historic roles in the service have been chosen to recognise, thank and represent the nation due to their significant service, and include representatives from orders of chivalry, the military and wider public life.”