Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield warns that understaffed and fragmented services mean that even suicidal minors are being turned away; a recent report showed that children’s psychiatric services received on average just 6 per cent of the mental health budget.
Suicidal youngsters must have access to professional help, but we should be asking why so many feel that way. The ready answer is social media, or even the ‘stigma’ suffered by sexually confused children. Although governments have a duty to regulate the internet in the interests of public safety, the responsibility for protecting young people from malign influences remains with parents. Despite this, while Ms Longfield and others in child welfare have spoken about families with problems, they have not emphasised the problem of parental break-up – highest of all among unmarried parents – which can devastate children’s lives. Typically they demand more professional help, seeing childcare as a matter for the trained (and paid) state employee; by implication, it is not the main concern of parents, dismissed as mere blundering amateurs.
This has not always been the case, and before we rush more ambulances to the foot of the cliff, we should think about replacing the fence at the top.