Weaving ‘safety nets’ for young people on CAMHS waiting lists


A new scheme to bridge the gap between being referred and receiving treatment is proving really helpful for young people in South and West Yorkshire.

Participants in the ‘safety net’ programme have showed an average improvement of 39% in the Warwick Edinburgh Short Scale which measures mental wellbeing.

The demand for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services is at an all-time high and recent research shows children and young people referrals have increased by 26% in five years. Nationally, 50% of children and young people that are assessed wait more than 18 weeks to start treatment and over 3% wait over 12 months.

Further research has shown the importance of good physical health in maintaining good mental health for children and young people and adolescents. For example, vigorous physical activity has been shown to combat depression. That’s why we’re part of a movement to develop “Safety Nets” across our area. This is a scheme that bridges part of the gap between being referred and receiving treatment. Safety Nets is a collaborative project involving local CAMHS teams and professional football and rugby clubs that has been running for 18 months. We’re involved with Barnsley FC and will be starting work with Huddersfield Town FC in the near future.

The project aims to create therapy groups for children to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. Each therapy group runs for two hours after school in term time, the first hour focussing on physical activity, led by the club, and the second hour focusing on mental health education, led by CAMHS staff. The groups are run at a local club for eight weeks with each weekly group focusing on different aspects of physical and mental health. The physical health aspect of the groups encompasses a broad range of physical activities, which are not confined to football and rugby alone. The mental health education section asks group members to comment and reflect on their emotional wellbeing, diet, relationships, sleep, relaxation techniques. The groups also enable young people to learn about how any why anxiety and depression occur, and how we can learn ways of managing them along with doing some physical activity.

The project is the brainchild of Dr Ryan Dias, Leadership Fellow in Physical Health and Mental Health Quality Improvement. He said: “In psychiatry we talk about ‘weaving a safety net’ so that if someone suffers an acute bout of mental illness they have coping strategies in place to help them through.

“I’ve seen how adults in Derbyshire have benefitted from a similar type of scheme that cares for both their mental and physical health so it seemed that creating something for children and young people too would be a great thing to do.

“NHS professionals are doing all they can to reduce CAMHS waiting times, but the issue won’t be solved overnight; this approach means that children and young people are getting help sooner and some have even recovered by taking part in the ‘safety net’ sessions.”

In our area, the sessions are funded by Creative Minds, a charity hosted by our Trust. Creative Minds is all about the use of creative approaches and activities in healthcare; increasing self-esteem, providing a sense of purpose, developing social skills, helping community integration and improving quality of life. We develop community partnerships to not only co-fund but also co-deliver projects for local people.

Dave Watson, Project Development Worker for Creative Minds, said: “Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. We’re delighted to be supporting this valuable work which is popular with both young people, the sports clubs and CAMHS professionals. Of course, all this is made by the fantastic support of Barnsley FC and now Huddersfield Town FC. The contribution of clubs to the wellbeing of local children and young people simply cannot be underestimated and we thank them.”

We’re planning to expand the scheme across our Trust area and get more of our teams involved.


Weaving ‘safety nets’ for young people on CAMHS waiting lists

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