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Wake-Up Call: UK Teens Attempting Suicide To Gain Access To Mental Health Care

Update Date: Jun 08, 2017 06:56 PM EDT

A growing number of teens in the United Kingdom are reportedly attempting suicide to gain access to mental health services.

A headteacher who asked to remain anonymous told the trade teaching magazine Tes that three students in her school alone have attempted suicide to grab the attention of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) professionals.

In a previous study conducted by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) -- formerly known as the Centre Forum -- researchers found that nearly 25 percent of children referred to the NHS for mental health treatment were turned away.

"I don't think there's anyone who genuinely wanted to end it at all," the headteacher who runs a secondary school in south-west England told Tes. "They wanted to get help, and the only way they could explain that was through their actions."

"It wasn't that people weren't listening to them - people had put in referrals to CAMHS. But the threshold for getting some kind of help is very difficult. CAMHS can only deal with the most acute cases," she continued.

Last year, the EPI issued a report that claimed children were often turned away "because their condition was not considered serious enough or not considered suitable for specialist mental health treatment."

In a survey consisting of more than 3,000 NHS counselors, psychoanalysts, and therapists, 84 percent said it has become more difficult for teens and young children to access the help they need, especially if their condition is not considered severe.

In addition, 67 percent of respondents warned that waiting times had increased within the past five years, while 33 percent said their workplace was facing closure.

"Whilst schools are getting better at prevention, these cuts have left a significant swathe of children who do not meet the ever-increasing CAMHS thresholds, yet have needs over and above what their school can provide, with no access to help," Natasha Devon, the government's former mental health czar told The Independent.

"This has led to a situation where young people undertake dangerous behaviors and even attempt suicide knowing this is the only way to get the professional services they need," she added.

According to official figures, spending on children's mental health services fell by £50 million between 2010 and 2015.

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