THE number of youngsters seeking help from Oxfordshire’s mental health services has rocketed nearly 40 per cent in the past two years.

With cyber bullying and self-harm on the rise and support in schools and in the community continuing to face cuts, those on the front line have called for better early intervention.

New NHS figures reveal that contacts with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the county rose from 4,450 to 6,095 between January 2017 and January 2019 - an increase of 37 per cent.

The number of ongoing mental health referrals at the end of January, meanwhile, was 6,770 – an increase of 43 per cent.

In February Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group admitted mental health had been underfunded for years, pledging to set it right with a long-term cash boost.

However,Oxfordshire psychiatrist and British Medical Association (BMA) mental health policy lead Dr Andrew Molodynski, said it was vital that any extra funding is made available to front line services as soon as possible.

He added:“There is a pressing need to address the wider issues behind the rising number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems and look at ways of combating issues such as the rise in cyber bullying and self-harm.

"Unfortunately, as support services in schools and the wider community are cut, there is less opportunity for early intervention and more young people are transferred to specialist services having a knock on-effect.

“Frontline staff in Oxford have for some time been calling for more investment in mental health services which remain worryingly underfunded.

"It is vital we see extra funding making its way to the front line so that young people are not placed at further risk and staff are supported to deliver this crucial care."

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Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust which runs CAMHS said that despite the increase in referrals, waiting lists had remained consistent, while a £5.4m NHS pilot scheme would see capacity of core CAMHS services in Oxfordshire increased which, if successful, will see waiting lists reduced to no longer than four weeks by 2021.

A trust spokesman said: "As we have seen mental health more openly discussed and addressed in recent years, we have seen an increase in referrals to our Oxfordshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) which has put pressure on services although waiting times have remained consistent.

"We are increasing the capacity of our core CAMHS services, with the aim patients and families will be seen more quickly and waiting times will reduce, following an additional £5.4m funding from NHS England to become a trailblazer site to help more children, however we continue to work with Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England to increase investment and capacity to improve services for Oxfordshire children."