CAMHS refusal to work with Autistic children violates ethical standards created by the House of Commons
If you are unaware of current issues with CAMHS, you can catch up by visiting my CAMHS Crisis resource page. However, the cliff noted version is this; Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are turning away Autistic children and young people from their services. This is very unethical, but that lack of ethics goes further.
You could be forgiven for not knowing what “Parity of Esteem” is. Parity of Esteem is a concept set forth by the House of Commons. The basic premise is that it requires an ethical approach that places mental health in equal priority with physical health. This has been important to the world of unschooling and EHCPs as it gives the two legal parity, allowing parent/carers to remove their child from the school environment for the best interests of their mental health.
One might think that this is a game-changing approach to the prioritisation of mental health, but unfortunately, one of the groups avoiding these particular ethical considerations is NHS mental health services themselves. CAMHS is regularly turning away Autistic people, which, in my opinion, gives the impression that Autistic young people’s mental health is of a lower priority.
Now, strictly speaking, they don’t leave you hanging every time. There are satellite services that deal with Autistic and learning disabled children. However, these services are often somewhat indifferent to psychological distress, and due to diagnostic overshadowing treat it as something that we should accept as an inevitability of Autistic experience.
Tanya Adkin and I have recently written about some of these issues. Even if CAMHS threw open their doors to Autistic service users, the infrastructure of that service is not fit for purpose. So, services that do agree to see us very often offer no meaningful support.
This highlights ethical issues over the lifetime of an Autistic person and could even create a CAMHS to prison pipeline. Allow me to explain.
Autistic young people who recieve no appropriate support for their mental health grow into Autistic adults with mental health issues. Mental health issues can result in a need to use emergency services. Here’s where it gets messed up.
There have been pushes for approaches to those who use emergency services due to mental health concerns to be approached with an intervention called “Serenity Integrated Mentoring” (SIM). Under SIM, people regularly detained under Section 136 of the mental health act can face criminal prosecution. This particular approach caused such outcries that NHS England has now distanced itself from the intervention.
This highlights, however, a move towards a world where Autistic people can face criminalisation for mental health issues no one will provide support for. I am certain that other unethical interventions will appear as we move forward. Let us not forget that Autistic people are already significantly more likely to attempt or die by suicide.
Until true legal parity is achieved between mental and physical health, marginalised groups will continue to suffer at the hands of under-resourced services. Never forget, when priorities are underestimated, disabled people are usually the first to be considered acceptable losses.
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