The number of children being referred for mental health support has “gone through the roof”, according to Falkirk District Association for Mental Health (FDAMH).
Last year alone, the Victoria Street organisation helped more than 500 children and teenagers who sought support for a variety of issues including grief, exam stress and problems caused by the adverse use of social media.
Fundraising manager Stuart McCallum said: “Referrals really have gone through the roof in recent times. Significantly, the number of 14 to 18-year-olds seeking support for mental health issues with FDAMH has trebled in the last two years with 48 in 2016 and 133 this year.
“Whether this increase is down to mental health in our children and young people getting poorer or a greater awareness of the subject I don’t know although I suspect it is the latter. Either way it is an indication of how important this issue is.
“Research shows that many adult mental health issues can often be attributed to problems not addressed in childhood, therefore early intervention and prevention is vital. The youngest child we have offered support to was just six years old through our Seasons for Growth course.”
FDAMH was first established in 1981, run by a group of ladies from local churches. The charity now has 26 highly skilled members of staff, 100 dedicated volunteers and last year helped around 2500 people across its various services.
Referrals are made via schools, doctors, other family support organisations and sometimes directly from families themselves.
Mr McCallum continued: “Often we counsel young people who are struggling to understand or cope with the poor mental health of a family member. We sometimes work with teachers too through our Training Academy to help them better understand the importance of mental health in the classroom and run courses on subjects such as managing anxiety, mindfulness and understanding self-harm.”
In the past 12 months FDAMH helped 133 individual 14 to 18-year-olds, 270 children within a family setting and also helped 177 individuals seeking immediate mental health support. It also worked directly with seven schools.
NHS Forth Valley said it too had seen an increase in referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) over the last year.
A spokesperson said: “Additional specialist staff have been recruited in all areas to help increase capacity. This includes intensive treatment nurses to provide support to children and young people who have significant mental health difficulties and additional child psychologists. The team also works closely with a range of partners, including local councils, to help identify mental health issues at a much earlier stage.
“Staff from NHS Forth Valley’s health promotion service are also delivering mental health first aid training in secondary schools across Forth Valley. The course aims to give young people the skills and confidence to respond to a person in distress or experiencing a mental health problem. It has also led to the introduction of Mental Health Champions to help increase awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”
Teenagers, parents, carers and teachers are being invited to contribute to an independent inquiry into the level of mental health support available to young people via the Scottish Parliament’s website: www.parliament.scot/mental-health-dialogue. The probe, led by the Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, follows the death of 16-year-old Britney McKenzie in 2016 who took a fatal overdose just over a fortnight after being prescribed pills for her anxiety.
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald, depute convener of the Public Petitions Committee, said: “The committee is particularly keen to understand the experiences of young people under the age of 18. These vital voices will help to shape our inquiry work.”