Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 16th January 2019

Despite the ongoing chaos on the national level, with our country left with a Conservative Government which is in office but out of control, I will resist the temptation to again raise Brexit and its potential implications for Crawley, and instead discuss something which really got to me this week.

For years, young people have been complaining that Sussex Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, or CAMHS to use its well-known acronym, isn’t fit for purpose. This isn’t the fault of the mental healthcare workers, who will always do their best, but as with the rest of our NHS it simply doesn’t have anything like the resources it needs to deal with the ongoing spread of mental illness amongst Britain’s youth, with children left in despair for months unable to access the treatment they need to get well.

This week I was confronted with the utter desperation that this creates. Where a young person’s cry for help left their body permanently damaged and where a parent was left with no one to turn to when the services we would all expect were already filled to capacity. A decade ago, England’s NHS adopted a constitution which said mental health would be treated as just as much of a priority as physical health, and yet ten years on attempted suicide is left up to a parent to deal with. Is this the sort of country we are letting our Government turn us into: totally uncaring about the needs of its people.

We need much, much more investment in mental health services, but that alone doesn’t go nearly far enough. We have to ask ourselves why so many young people now feel that there is no hope, that they have no value, that they are unloved, and then we owe it to them and to ourselves to fix it. We need to build a society which no longer sees people as a number, be it what they have in the bank or their number of friends on Facebook, but which puts people and community back at the heart of our system once more.

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