Brent Centre response to Green Paper consultation on children and young people's mental health

Brent Centre response to Green Paper consultation on children and young people's mental health

Youth mental health experts warn against ‘quick fix’ approaches to suicide prevention

The Brent Centre for Young People welcomes the government’s renewed initiative and Green Paper consultation to support the mental health of young people in schools with significant investment.

Whilst we do agree prevention work for adolescent mental health in schools is a good thing we wish to warn against taking a ‘quick fix’ approach to working with vulnerable or suicidal teens, as research has shown this is not always effective.

Based on 50 years’ of clinical expertise and effective practice – where we feel concerned with the Green Paper is the accent on ‘quick fix innovation’ at the expense of existing practice and research.

Research and experience shows that long-term training and support – and professional therapeutic supervision – is essential for staff to be able to both support and guide young people in highly vulnerable states into positions of long-term recovery.

This initial investment is paid off over the long-term as young people do not then relapse, creating additional strain on themselves, their families and over-stretched NHS support systems.

Brent Centre Clinical Director Dr. Maxim de Sauma and Child Psychotherapist Valentina Levi said: “What we have found in 50 years of clinical experience in our Laufer House and 17 years of providing mental health support to 10 local secondary schools – working closely with GPs and NHS Children and Adolescent Mental health Services (CAMHS) – with suicidal teens with clinically proven results – is that short-term trained staff simply cannot cope – they need the support of a whole team and years of training and experience to be able to properly support teenagers on the edge.”

“We do want to provide treatment and mental health support workers into schools and we welcome this initiative and more research in this area – but where the framework of this consultation concerns us is a lot of reference to ‘innovation’ at the expense of proven clinical practice.”

Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist Valentina Levi added: “Overall, whilst we welcome an early intervention approach, the framework of this Green Paper appears to be veering away from the tried-and-tested.”

“What we find time and time again in schools is that when you deal with kids who present with high risk of suicide or self-harm, and the risk needs to be urgently managed - you can’t just take someone with short-term training and then put them with suicidal adolescents. It just doesn’t work.

“We also have concerns about placing isolated therapists in schools without adequate supervision – even experienced therapists require the support of a whole team and are very closely supervised.

“Our concern with some of the proposals outlined in the Green Paper is that sending in very ‘junior’ professionals could put highly vulnerable young people in risky situations. I wouldn’t do it to the clinicians and I wouldn’t do it to the adolescents.

“Professionals who are sent in must have had several years of adequate training – as well as supervision. Our team who work in schools must have had a minimum of two years training and experience before they can go into schools and work with highly vulnerable young people.”

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