A HUGE amount of money must be spent on mental health services in Dorset to bring them “out of the dark ages.”

Mental health problems must also be taken more seriously.

This is the view of the county’s police and crime commissioner, Martyn Underhill.

For him, tackling mental health issues, particularly relating to children who have been victims of abuse and their families who also suffer when the abuse bomb explodes, is a top priority.

Mr Underhill agreed to become the patron of a new charity for children, ACTS FAST, in part because of his concern over the lack of support for youngsters who are abused and the length of time they wait to be seen.

The founders of the charity say there are huge gaps in the support network for abused children, their siblings and parents and more needs to be done to help families cope immediately after an allegation of abuse is made.

They are particularly critical of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Dorset (CAMHS).

Mr Underhill has already raised his concerns over CAMHS services with its directors.

The Echo highlighted the launch of the new charity earlier this week.

Mr Underhill said: “Why can’t we treat someone who is mentally ill with the same respect as someone who is physically ill? Mental illness is not taken seriously enough.

“There is not parity of respect and not enough resources are put into the mental health system. Those who are physically ill get more treatment, more money and more respect – it’s just wrong.”

The police commissioner said he was especially concerned over the issue of young victims.

“Much more need to be done at that end of the scale.

“One of the things that comes across my desk all the time is the huge gulf between mental health services for children and for adults.

“I have spoken to health professionals about this and they agree there is a problem. This issue has been and remains one of my absolute priorities as police and crime commissioner.

“We have all these children who have been brave enough to come forward and tell people they have been horribly abused and when they finally get the help they need it’s often too late. They are self harming or addicted to drugs or alcohol or both.

“They when they reach 17, the tap is turned off. Mental health services are currently not set up to cope with the demand.

“Again we are encouraging children to come forward and disclose, which is an incredibly hard thing to do, and then we don’t support them. It’s simply not acceptable.”

n Tomorrow we speak to Mike Kelly, associate director of Bournemouth-based service CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service).


NSPCC 0808 800 5000, nspcc.org.uk

Childline 0800 1111, childline.org.uk

MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children) 0800 980 1958, mosac.org.uk

Dorset Action on Abuse 01202 732424, dorsetactiononabuse.org.uk

ACTS FAST 01202 309 930, actsfast.org.uk