Deaths in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

Published: 16th August 2022
Lynn Gradwell, Director of Young People and Care Leaver Services, responds to recent news regarding young people who have died in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) units since 2019.

It’s hard to read the truly shocking statistics on child deaths in mental health units uncovered by the BBC last week. I don’t know about you, but it makes me sad and frustrated that day in and day out, we have dedicated staff and professionals who are working so hard to support young people but we are still unable to prevent these deaths.

Since 2019, at least 20 patients aged 18 or under have died in NHS or privately-run units.

That’s 20 irreplaceable young lives lost and 20 families grieving – and I know you will agree it’s 20 lives too many.

The question we must keep asking ourselves and working together on is – what can be done about the child mental health crisis that is sweeping the country? There are no easy answers as the issues around mental health for young people are complex, multifaceted and can strike young people and their families when they least expect it.

Look Ahead is working to urgently address this issue from the perspective of accommodation, care and support to prevent young people needing to be hospitalised, when they are in crisis, but it is difficult for them to remain at home. We are increasingly seeing referrals for young people 16-24 years in acute mental distress, with commissioners sometimes at a loss as to how best to help them. These young people are not fully formed adults but still emerging as young adults with adolescent brains and there is a need to explore whether we need to do something different in the current system to address this

In response to this, Look Ahead has commissioned Care Research to find out how we can best support young people experiencing mental health issues and can no longer live at home with their families due to their increasing health, care and support needs

Thanks to funding by the Wates Family Foundation, we’re working with the wider sector to better understand the needs of young people aged 16-24 with mental health problems, especially those in crisis, who currently cannot be adequately supported in the community.

Our project aims to outline the problems and set out some potential new and innovative solutions to create better outcomes for young people facing in-patient admission, potentially far away from home.

There is a growing body of research that shows being able to support people with mental health needs in the least restrictive setting, specially within their communities, is both better for patient outcomes and more cost effective than long-term hospitalisation.

Crucially it means that patients can recover with the love and support of family and friends close to home and in their own community.

Our research will be launched early next year, and we’re keen to hear from professionals working in this space as well as young people and family members who have experience of mental health crisis.

Please do get in touch to find out more, or to get involved. By working together, we can bring about change and help prevent more young lives being needlessly lost.

You can do this by completing our research surveys on the links below:

If you are a parent of a young person who has experienced mental health crisis, please click here

If you are a social care professional involved in commissioning or working on children and young people’s mental health crisis support provision in London and the South East please click here