When an adolescent is seriously ill and desperately needs help, a police key turning in a cell door lock is the last thing they should hear. A night surrounded by criminals and drunks banging on the walls is hardly a helpful environment for any sick person, but for young people with severe mental health problems it can be catastrophic. Despite this, each year hundreds of teenagers find themselves not in hospital beds but banged up.
Police cells are for those suspected of doing wrong, not those whose bodies have somehow gone wrong. But now a dispiriting Health Select Committee report about child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in England has highlighted horribly high levels of detention. The report finds a litany of failings that go far beyond the placement of sick youngsters in custody. Most damning is the number of times police end up looking after someone who really needs a doctor. This is the worst symptom of a system in very poor health indeed.
View the CAMHS Report