The island’s Children’s Champion has said adolescent mental health services are ‘neglected’, after a stark increase in those awaiting treatment for mental health problems.

Kerry Sharpe MLC said that systems in place currently ‘fall short’.

One in 10 children aged between four and 17 are currently receiving or awaiting treatment with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

The service has seen a stark increase in those awaiting assessment or treatment over the past two years, with an overall rise of 83% compared to September 2020.

The 2021 Isle of Man census highlighted that there are 12,427 young people aged between four and 17 in the island.

Currently CAMHS caseload stands at 1,370, with very few of those individuals being under the age of four.

Mrs Sharpe said: ‘The fact that there are 1,370 children on the CAMHS waiting list falls short of the highest attainable standard and I challenged government over this in Tynwald recently.

‘There are only 25 staff in CAMHS and they are busy dealing with the children currently on their books. There is no way they will ever get through this waiting list quickly enough and government knows this.

‘The CAMHS building, which is tucked away at the back of Noble’s Hospital, symbolises this neglect: the paint is peeling, the rooms are cramped and it’s been infested with rodents in the past. Things need to change and fast.

‘It was obvious during lockdown that children’s mental health would suffer.

‘Imagine being a five-year-old child right now. About half your entire life has been spent at home with just your parents. There are various reasons why this scenario could have been mentally damaging, whether that’s due to suffering abuse, knock-on effects of parents’ stress, or lack of socialisation.’


Despite having significantly higher comparative figures than the UK, the Isle of Man does not currently have a multi-agency strategy for dealing with mental health and emotional wellbeing in children from an early age.

This means that, due to the current shortage of early intervention in partnership with other agencies, a large number of those children and young people who require mental health assessment and treatment are referred to CAMHS, placing added pressure on the team and creating longer waiting lists.

By contrast, the UK has a number of other agencies that people can go to before attending CAMHS.

‘The waiting list figures for CAMHS don’t tell the whole story,’ Mrs Sharpe said. ‘It’s estimated that only five percent of the children on the waiting list actually need to see a high level mental health professional such as a psychiatrist.

‘What most children need is low level, early intervention and support. We can see an example of this in high schools where the charity Isle Listen operates. Children can self refer for advice and support before mental health problems escalate.

‘What we need in the Isle of Man is much more of this kind of low level support.’

Manx Care is working to establish a multi-agency approach, with the recent ‘Thrive Framework for System Change’ conference organised by the Integrated Mental Health Services team to bring together representatives from multiple agencies across government, the private sector and third sector.

The next ‘Thrive’ stakeholder event is planned for December 2022.

Manx Care said: ‘The Thrive Framework is needs-led, and aims to establish an integrated, multi-agency network that will support the mental health and wellbeing needs of children, young people up to the age of 25 and the adults who look after them.

‘The support network is based on a defined set of principles, and aims to effect groups working together in partnership rather than entities working to support individuals in silos.’

Mrs Sharpe also addressed the need for an autism pathway, adding that children who have been referred for an assessment for autism shouldn’t be waiting to see a psychiatrist at CAMHS.

She added: ‘This pathway had been promised by government when I was a political member of DHSC during the last administration and I have been pushing for its completion since then. Only when these children are on the correct pathway and when children’s mental health is being successfully dealt with via early intervention will we see a reduction in the CAMHS waiting list.’

However, the member of the Legislative Council felt there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

‘CAMHS will be moving to more suitable premises and Manx Care will be introducing their Thrive model,’ Mrs Sharpe said. ‘Once someone has identified the fact that they need mental health support, most people only ever attend one appointment.

‘So that first appointment is really important and must come early on, with excellent advice and options for support.

‘I am told the Thrive Model is outcome-informed, so goals for the child are measured and it’s quickly realised if progress is not being made. Lots of children can become ‘stuck’ in CAMHS when perhaps they would flourish getting support in a community-based initiative.

‘What we need right now is for government to finish the autism pathway and to finish putting together the children’s mental health strategy.

‘Those, along with Manx Care’s Thrive Model, will give us the blueprint for how best to deal with our children’s mental health in the future.


‘But it must not be forgotten that blueprints are only words on paper. What we must see are operational changes on the ground.

‘When you’re a child, five years can be the whole of your life so far... or half your life so far... and if you’re waiting for mental health support and you don’t get it for your whole life or for half your life, then you can never get that time back.

‘Our children deserve more. They deserve “the highest attainable standard of health” and that’s certainly what I will be pushing for while I remain in this role.’

Ross Bailey, head of Integrated Mental Health Services at Manx Care, said: ‘At the moment, we’re establishing a comprehensive picture of the current system of services for children and young people’s mental health across the Isle of Man, and implementing the Thrive Framework where possible.

‘The Isle of Man does not currently have a national strategy for this, and so we’re contributing to the development of a new mental health and wellbeing strategy.’

Manx Care added: ‘We are committed to working collaboratively with the island’s community, key stakeholders, including government departments, and organisations in the third sector to establish a sustainable mental health and wellbeing strategy for the island focused on early intervention.’