New briefing reveals concerns about in-patient mental health care for children

The NSPCC has published a new briefing about young people’s experiences of in-patient mental health care after a sharp increase in the number of children contacting Childline about this issue.

The NSPCC have published a new briefing providing insight about children's experiences of in-patient mental health careThe Helplines Insight Briefing reveals that children and young people often feel as though they’re not being listened to when they’re admitted to, cared for in and discharged from hospital settings. This includes feeling left out from important decisions about their care.

Childline delivered 621 counselling sessions in 2023 where being sectioned or hospitalised for mental health issues was discussed. This represents an increase of 18% on the previous year.

Calls for child-centred approach to in-patient mental health care

Children's charities are calling for a child-centred approach to in-patient mental health careThe confidential helpline says children who have received in-patient mental health care often need a safe place to be themselves and seek support with their emotional challenges.

The Helplines Insight Briefing places the voices of children and young people at its heart, to advocate a child-centred approach to mental health care.

It explores the key themes of:

  • Admittance to in-patient mental health care, either voluntarily or after being sectioned
  • Hospital environment and receiving inadequate support
  • Involvement in own care while in hospital, including discharge decisions
  • The after-effects of having been hospitalised

Young people who contacted Childline about in-patient mental health care talked about their experiences being “triggering” and feeling “neglected and abandoned.”

The NSPCC has emphasised:

“The findings show that every child’s experience of mental health is different, and so it’s crucial that they feel listened to and consulted. This is to ensure they receive the best care and support.”

New campaign calls for changes to in-patient mental health care

Children report feeling lonely isolated and triggered in in-patient mental health care settingsThey are joining with other leading charities Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society and The National Children’s Bureau to call for all political parties to address the escalating child mental health crisis.

The campaign, called Children at the Table, has received backing from over 190 organisations. It urges the UK’s next government to develop a plan to make decisions for babies, children and young people with children at the table.

They want significant investment in improving mental health and wellbeing among children and young people, highlighting the fact that children’s voices have gone unheard and that:

  • 2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty
  • 1 million children are living in extreme poverty
  • Around 1.4 million children in England have a diagnosable mental health condition
  • Children experiencing mental health difficulties often struggle to access the support they need

The Policy Manager at the charity, Vicky Nevin, said:

“Mental health is the number one reason children and young people contact Childline. Some need a listening ear and access to early mental health support while others are already receiving treatment but feel ignored when decisions are being made about their care.

“Preventative mental health support should be available for every baby, child and young person. But there will always be some who need more specialist care in a hospital, and they should be treated with compassion and respect. They should understand what is happening to them and be given a say in what will help.

“We need ambitious commitments from party leaders to improve mental health support for children and to put their voices at the heart of policy making.”

You can read the Helplines Insight Briefing about children’s experiences of in-patient mental health care online now.

Training to support children and young people

Training can help adults support children and young people with their mental healthFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safetyfirst aidfire safetymanual handlingfood safetymental healthhealth and social caresafeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers, as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services.

Their courses include Understanding Mental Health, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Anxiety Awareness, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

A trainer from FRT says:

“It’s vitally important that we keep talking openly about mental health and that we take the time to have conversations with children and young people and really listen to what they’ve got to say about their thoughts, feelings and worries, to support their wellbeing and check in with them.

“It’s also really important for anyone who works closely with children and young people to have a good understanding of mental health and be able to spot the signs that someone may be struggling. They should also feel confident to offer appropriate early help and support. Focused training can help with this.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to