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PICTURED: Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan

THE mother of a self-harming teenager who has been waiting a year to see a psychiatrist has backed Barnardo’s call for an urgent review into waiting times for mental health treatments.

At the moment the target is for 95% of people suffering from mental health problems like depression and anxiety to be referred to counselling within 18 weeks.

The UK’s biggest children’s charity wants the next Government to look at improving this target and ensuring there is parity between the treatment of mental and physical health.

Sarah Jones* is backing the call so children like her daughter Rachel, get the help they need more quickly.

The 14-year-old, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, began self-harming after being bullied at school and was referred to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) a year ago.

Ms Jones says she has been supported through this by a Barnardo’s service that helps children with ADHD, but says CAMHS is overstretched.

They saw a psychologist five months after the first referral but are still waiting to see a psychiatrist.

She said: “There’s a very long waiting list and they are totally under-resourced.

“I’m a healthcare professional and I cannot navigate the system.

“If I cannot navigate the system as a healthcare professional then how can someone do it who does not know the system?

“We need to put pressure on the next Government about CAMHS and I back calls for shorter mental health waiting times 100 per cent.”

Her daughter has stopped harming herself after receiving counselling at school.

Barnardo’s wants all children to have access to counselling at schools so they can benefit like Rachel has.

It also wants mental health to be embedded in schools and discussed in assemblies, so young people learn it’s okay to ask for help.

The charity’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “Improvements in children’s mental health treatment have been made over successive governments.

“But as the experience of Rachel and her mother shows we have a long road ahead of us.

“We know early intervention is crucial to treating mental health issues before they get worse and we believe schools and colleges have a big part to play.

“With access to school-based counselling, children like Rachel will be helped to go on and live healthy and happy lives.”

*The names have been changed to protect the people’s identities.

www.barnardos.org.uk