‘Something must be done’ – Moon Hall Head on mental health waiting times after BBC interview

22nd September 2021

Moon Hall Headteacher Michelle Catterson

Michelle Catterson, the Headteacher of Moon Hall School, expressed concern regarding the lengthy wait times that children are facing for mental health treatment in an interview shared by the BBC yesterday, and has now discussed the issue more with the ISA.

With the BBC finding that a fifth of the children treated from April 2020 to March 2021 had to wait over 12 weeks for the specialist care provided by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), it is clear that more support needs to be directed to young people in need.

Mrs Catterson told us that pastoral support has been increased at Moon Hall School in Surrey, which teaches children from the ages of seven to 16 with dyslexia, with more recruitment of staff trained in Mental Health First Aid, ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support) and Play therapy.

However, schools still need to lean on the services provided by the likes of CAMHS if pupils require a higher level of support. In which case, children possibly waiting months for care could potentially make things worse for them.

Whilst NHS England have stated that they plan to support an additional 345,000 children and young people aged up to 25 by 2023/24, Mrs Catterson reiterates that with the issues prevalent now – the help also needs to be accessible right now.

Mrs Catterson stresses that ‘something must be done’ to make services more ‘accessible’ and to ‘cut down’ on the waiting time:

“Lockdown has had a huge impact on young people and as a school we identify this through the increased pastoral support provision here at Moon Hall.”

“On occasions where pupils need a higher level of support, through access to Mental Health services, then we turn to organisations such as CAMHS. Unfortunately, in my experience, it has proven that the waiting time for CAMHS support is extremely long.”

“When I have a family and a young person in need, that professional support is essential. The waiting time for mental health support is far too long. Children waiting for months on end to receive support is not ok and only worsens the issue, particularly if they are depressed or having suicidal thoughts.”

“Additional funding has been promised by Government; however, the issues are happening now, and therefore the help needs to be put in place now.”

“As a school we have recruited additional support staff, trained staff in Mental Health First Aid, trained staff in ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support) and also in Play therapy. All of these additional skills help us to support the pupil’s day to day and in most cases, these trained staff can help the pupil find solutions to their problems. It’s when the needs of the young person are something that are beyond our skills that we need to rely on Mental Health providers.”

“We are a caring profession, we do not want to see any of our pupils, distressed, isolated or in need of help, however we need help, and something must be done to make these services more accessible and cut down on the waiting time.”

NHS England report that over 420,000 children and young people were treated through NHS-commissioned community services in 2020/21, which approximately covered 39.6% of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition.