NHS Highland 'committed to improving mental health care for youngsters'
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NHS Highland bosses have said they are committed to increasing capacity to meet demand and earlier access to mental health services for young people in the region.
The pledge comes after the mother of a teenager in Strathspey, who suffered a mental health breakdown during lockdown, called on the health service to speed up its support for young people.
Jane Cain (59) said that she was at her “wits' end” when she found out that she might have to wait for more than 18 months for help for her son.
NHS Highland has set up a taskforce to speed up its response to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) referrals – but figures show hundreds of children wait for longer than a year for an appointment.
Mrs Cain said: “My son, who is 16, had a serious accident and this led to a painful and debilitating breakdown in his mental health.
“He went from being a young man who liked to be out and about on his bike, to being unable to get out of his bed.”
While not naming her son, the teen has also encouraged his mum to tell his story to raise awareness for other young people facing their own ordeals.
Mrs Cain said: “Our own GP supported us to access help, but it was still going to be a long time until we were able to see anyone who could offer the support we needed.
“After research and advice, I found a therapist in Inverness who specialised in eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing who could help my son with his mental health.
“Over a series of sessions on Zoom, and in person, we unravelled what was going on for him. It was not easy for any of us – but we persevered and we eventually got there.
“The early intervention in my son’s health has ultimately got him well, and able to continue with his life.
“But what was very clear to me, was that every single day that he continued living with the mental agony that he was in, it made him, and me, feel like we were failing and he fell deeper into crisis.
“I am not a rich woman, but I came into a small amount of money after my parents’ death and I used it to support my son.
“I know that not everyone can come up with the cash for mental health interventions, but without that money I think my son would have ended up heavily medicated and perhaps with an admission to hospital.
“That is unbearable.”
Mrs Cain said her son’s life had now become easier, and back to some sort of “normal”.
She wanted to tell her story to encourage other parents to seek help and told those in similar situations not to give in when NHS Highland is unable to offer the support children need immediately.
An NHS Highland spokesman said: "During the initial lockdown the CAMHS reverted to an unscheduled care service.
"However, since September 2020 the team have been delivering outpatient appointments while continuing provision for emergency appointments and a duty system in place, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
"This provides telephone assistance to professionals seeking support and advice. Further information is available to families and professionals on the CAMHS website and more recently a Facebook page has been set up.
"Our ultimate aim would however be to see children/young adults in a timely manner to provide early intervention and NHS Highland is committed to exploring ways to increase capacity to meet demand and earlier access to CAMHS."