Welsh Children Suffer From Lack Of Mental Health Services

Mental health problems among Welsh children are on the increase because there are not enough services to help them, ChildLine warned yesterday. Figures released by ChildLine revealed its staff received nearly 200 calls last year from children contemplating suicide, with 80% of those calls coming from girls.

The figure for the number of girls who called the helpline and told counsellors they were thinking about taking their own lives accounted for more than one in six of all calls received. Calls to the service came from children as young as six years old.

Jonathan Green, service manager for ChildLine Cymru said the resources to help young people in Wales with mental health problems were inadequate. The counselling service, run by the NSPCC, received nearly 1,000 calls from young people with problems relating to depression, eating disorders, and physical and sexual abuse in 2006, but Mr Green said they were being failed by a dearth of other systems to support them.

“When young people talk about suicide, they are obviously in deep despair,” he said. “They are at crisis point with no-one else to turn to, which is why they call us. At the moment there are simply not enough therapeutic services for children with these problems and we are urging the Welsh Assembly Government to give this issue urgent attention.”

The prevalence of girls over boys among those who phone the ChildLine is contrary to statistics for child suicide, which show the number of male suicides in the 15-21 age group is around three times the figure for girls.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly Government said an extra £1.4m had been earmarked for child mental health services for 2005-06, in addition to the annual £1.2m budget. She pointed to the commitment, unveiled earlier this month, to extend counselling services to school pupils, as well as its Parenting Action Plan as steps taken to improve the situation.

She added, “The Welsh Assembly Government is concerned about suicide rates among young people in Wales and is taking action across a range of areas to ensure young people have access to the services they need. In 2007, the Welsh Assembly Government has taken regulations through the Assembly to improve services provided to looked-after children. These services are aimed at supporting some of the most vulnerable young people in Wales.”