Scilly Has ‘Alarming’ Number Of Youngsters With Mental Health Issues
The number of children presenting with mental health issues in Scilly is “alarming” and the Five Islands School needs to do more to identify problems at an earlier stage.
That was the view expressed by Cllr Marian Bennett at last week’s Children’s Committee meeting, where members heard that eighteen youngsters on the islands were currently receiving treatment from mental health services.
Dr Liz Myers, a consultant child psychiatrist at the Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust, said that is “a very high proportion” compared to the mainland and unusual for such a small population.
And she said a number of these were serious conditions, such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, self harm and obsessive compulsive disorder.
The committee heard how extra resources are being allocated to deal with the issues in Scilly but lack of available services on the mainland were contributing to the problem.
Dr Myers said there weren’t enough beds available for young people undergoing an acute crisis in Cornwall.
They often had to travel as far as Bristol for treatment, which Council Chairman Amanda Martin said could be a “terrifying” experience for a young islander.
Amanda felt there has always been a mental health problem in Scilly, but it’s only been recognised as such in the past few years.
And she blamed increasing use of social media for exacerbating the situation, particularly eating disorders.
Cllr Ted Moulson said he had first hand experience of the problems and appropriate safe accommodation was required for children undergoing a crisis on the islands.
Ted felt that a police cell was not the right place for a young person and the police did not have the training to deal with this.
But Cllr Marian Bennett said the school needed “to play a bigger role” and identify mental health issues at an earlier stage.
She asked how many of the eighteen cases would have been prevented if the youngsters had access to support sooner.
“The old-style school nursing service should have an important role,” said Marian.
Senior Manager for Community Services, Aisling Hick, said the school had recently appointed a pastoral worker to detect early signs of mental health problems in children.
Aisling said some young people in our small community can “feel different” and don’t fit into their peer group.
That can be difficult with a year group of just twenty children, she added.