Rachael Colbran, of Crawley, had to turn to the private sector in an effort to find suitable treatment for the teenager, whose mental health issues were so bad she had tried to take her own life.
Rachael described how hard it had been to get suitable therapy and psychological support for a child who was so seriously ill she had to spend her 14th birthday in hospital.
She said: “We had quite a hard time getting access to treatment for my daughter, who had an eating disorder, and I was appalled really, astonished that she had gone through what she did and still there was no one-to-one therapy available to her.
“We were told we were on waiting lists and this went on for over a year.”
The mum-of-two has worked hard to create something positive out of such a terrible situation, launching Youth: Action for Mental Health Support (Y:AMHS) earlier this year.
The aim of Y:AMHS is to raise money to help other families access private treatment.
Rachael said: “As a family we’re in a very fortunate position.
“I thought most people in Crawley – particularly given the pandemic situation – are not in that position. So many families are struggling to buy the basic food and clothes for their children and I thought ‘this isn’t OK’.
“Children are waiting one or two or more years for the treatment they need. There’s so much research that shows if it’s not treated properly now it becomes a lifelong issue for people.
“That to me was not acceptable. I was so depressed by that idea. It seemed so hopeless.”
Rachael hopes that Y:AMHS will achieve charity status by the end of the year – but she could do with some help.
She desperately needs a treasurer/trustee and is also on the lookout for anyone who would like to volunteer to help out with collections and fundraising.
She can be reached via [email protected]
The issue of mental health and the care which can be offered has been the subject of discussion at West Sussex County Council.
Earlier this summer, councillors from all parties backed a call to prioritise mental health, thanking partners such as the NHS, community groups and district councils for their support.
Kirsty Lord (Lib Dem, Hassocks & Burgess Hill South) reported that mental health disorders among children countrywide had risen from one in nine pupils in 2017 to one in six.
One huge impact had obviously been the pandemic.
Mrs Lord said: “There’s been a 400 per cent increase in eating disorders amongst children and 2.2 million children have spent lockdown in households affected by at least one of the toxic trio – domestic abuse, mental ill health or substance misuse.”
She was supported by Chris Oxlade (Lab, Bewbush & Ifield West).
He said: “Many of us before and during the pandemic have known people, or experienced ourselves, the serious negative effects mental health can have on our everyday lives.
“Losing relatives and friends to Covid, job loss, furlough, working from home – the list is long.
“It’s affected everyone from children in school to those in the later years of life.”
With the permission of their parents, Ms Lord shared the stories of three West Sussex children – aged nine, 11 and 12 – and the obstacles they and their parents had faced when looking for help.
One of the biggest problems in all three cases appeared to be that the services which were available were overwhelmed.
Mr Oxlade said: “I’m sure this council would like to see access to mental health services remain a priority for each and every one of our residents who need support and help at possibly the worst time in their lives and will always be in the forefront of decision making for this council.
“Services are stretched, budgets are tight but mental health services are just at the tip of the iceberg at the moment.
“We must make sure this remains a priority for this council now and in the future.”
It was a message which certainly hit home.
The county council has now dedicated additional resources to the problem, including:
Mental Health First Aid support in schools
Drop-in services and youth worker sessions in schools
Online mentoring courses to support children and young people
Online courses to support parents and carers in developing tools to help children manage their feelings and mental health
An LGBTQU+ support pilot project.
Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children & young people, said: “We know from what our communities tell us that the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of our children and young people, their families and teachers cannot be understated.
“Emotional wellbeing is a crucial part of every child’s development and ability to fulfil their potential.
“Demand on our services for young people in West Sussex has, however, increased during the pandemic, creating additional pressure on our communities.
“I am pleased therefore that we are able to allocate more dedicated resources at this critical time to what I’m sure will be a much-needed and welcome package of support, one that brings partners together to respond to this need, continues our work of prioritising health and wellbeing, and puts the voice of the child at the heart of all we do.”
When asked for her thoughts on the council’s actions, Rachael said: “All in all it looks great and there is such a need that I would be welcoming all efforts to support children, young people and their families with mental ill health.
“It is also great that there are a range of options – this is definitely an area where one size does not fit all.
“As always, there is much more to be done and long-term strategies such as ‘Mentally Healthy Schools’ need to be considered.”
She did have one request, though – the provision of affordable space for parent support groups and youth groups to meet.
In the meantime, it’s back to the fundraising, with a Ladies Fashion Show lined up for Saturday September 25.
The show will be held at the Friary Church, Crawley, from 7pm, and will include clothes for women of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Tickets are available from the Y:AMHS website www.yamhs.co.uk
To keep up with the group on social media, search for Y:AMHS on Facebook and @y_amhs on both Twitter and Instagram.