By Lucette Davies

We have set up a petition calling for Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust (SPFT) to open a unit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in this area. The Trust is building a new unit to replace the building they currently occupy in the grounds of Eastbourne’s DGH. But although they have promised no overall reduction in bed numbers, they have also said the new unit will not incorporate a CAMHS.

Nationally, CAHMS has fallen behind the rest of the mental health services. We have heard numerous reports of young people being sent hundreds of miles from their homes for treatment. This practice is simply abusive to young people and their families. As a community we now need to insist that SPFT listens to what we believe is needed in terms of service provision for our area.

Mental health services have been the Cinderella service within the NHS for far too long. But 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14. To leave young people with substandard treatment until they go into adult services is counterproductive. Mental health problems cause physical, social and psychological damage and will only get harder to treat if left without an appropriate intervention.

For the young people who have been affected by Covid restrictions mental health has become truly epidemic. The Children’s Society has reported that five children out of a classroom of 30 are likely to have mental health problems. Since 2010, we have also witnessed more children living in poverty. This poverty will contribute towards greater mental health problems in our children. It is appalling to think that 1/3 of Eastbourne’s children are now living in poverty.

So how can we accept our mental health trust running just one inpatient unit for children and young people in Sussex? CAMHS at the Priory Hospital in Ticehurst is also closing down but Sussex Partnership have told me they have no proposals to replace the service as: “It was commissioned by NHS England.”

We can as a community insist that if a new unit is built it provides for children and young people. Please help us by writing to the Trust’s CEO Sam Allen and expressing your concern. Nationally 70% of children and young people with mental health problems have not had an appropriate intervention at a sufficiently early age. So please, sign our petition and share it with your contacts.

For every £1 invested in the health of the nation the wealth of the nation will grow between £2 – £4. The truth is that we cannot afford to not invest in health. But our children are also our future. Any investment in their mental health is an investment in our future. School children have led the way in making us pay attention to the climate crisis. They are suffering immeasurably by our failure to build them a better country with a more secure future. So, let’s not leave it to the children to fight for better mental health services.

Please make your voice heard today