Cabinet Member For Children, Families & Education, Councillor Suzy Horton shares her thoughts about Children's Mental Health Week and this year's theme 'Express yourself'.
This year’s Children’s Mental Health Week’s theme is ‘Express Yourself’ which I interpret as reflecting two key themes in mental well-being; getting uncomfortable stuff out, often by talking, and letting the good stuff in by becoming the best version of yourself.
Mental health is in danger of becoming conflated with mental illness if we don’t embrace the positives of self-care and awareness of the early signs of stress, anxiety and mental illness. Growing up is, and always has been, a bit of a roller coaster journey of emotions, mood changes and psychological shifts; it doesn’t happen overnight and it is also accompanied by all the curve balls that life throws at us at any time. For young people at the moment they are dealing with all this AND the impact of the pandemic in robbing them of their exams, school routine and their social life and sometimes trapping them in stressful environments. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be.
At Portsmouth city council we take mental well-being very seriously and it is an integrated strand of everything we do with schools and youth provision as part of our Social, Emotional and Mental Health Strategy for children and young people, which includes a focus on ensuring early help is available to support emotional wellbeing and mental health needs, preventing difficulties from escalating as well as those requiring specialist mental health services through CAMHS. We are one of the first cities in the country to soon have Mental Health Support Teams in every school, and in the last few weeks have launched a free, digital mental health service called Kooth.
Kooth.com is an online counselling and emotional wellbeing service, available to young people aged 11-18 years old in Portsmouth, or up to the age of 25 for care leavers and those with an Education Health and Care Plan. The site provides young people with a free, safe and anonymous way to access support from qualified counsellors as well as a range of self-help resources and has no referrals or waiting lists and is available 24/7, with counselling available 12pm - 10pm Monday to Friday and 6pm - 10pm at weekends, all year round. Young people asked for a digital and anonymous service and this could not have come at a better time given the isolation they are experiencing and the reliance on digital contact.
Portsmouth's mental health support for children and young people was praised in the recent multi-agency report in 2020 and we are very proud of the quality of the support that is here. But we certainly are not complacent; CAMHS is underfunded all the time there is a waiting list, youth services are awaiting the government’s promise of the Youth Investment Fund and, not surprisingly, the demands for mental health support are showing signs of increasing as the impact of the pandemic plays out.
Supporting children and young people with their mental wellbeing is a fundamental element in enabling them to achieve a bright future and to become the best version of themselves. We need to support them when they need it and give them space to flourish and express themselves when they don’t.
I want every young person in this city to know that help is there, either face to face or online whenever they need it.
Cllr Suzy Horton
Cabinet Member For Children, Families & Education
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