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Work starts on Cornwall's first mental health unit for young people

Work starts on Cornwall's first mental health unit for young people

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 4:23pm 2nd May 2018. (Updated at 7:16am 3rd May 2018)

Building work has started on Cornwall's first ever mental health unit for children and teenagers.

The unit will offer 14 beds for 13 to 18-year-olds suffering from complex and severe mental health issues.

It is being built at the Bodmin Hospital site and is due to open in May 2019.

There will also be accommodation for family members and a 'crisis cafe' - as well as a recreational sports barn.

It comes after years of campaigning, as families are forced to travel miles to see their children getting psychiatric help.

One young person from Penzance told Pirate FM she thinks the unit will make a big difference.

She said: "When I was in-patiented I ended up in Kent for about six and a half months, and that was a really difficult step, because you can't have any interaction with family or friends, you don't have leave.

"To be able to have a unit in county for people who need help is so important, as they can get help they need and continue their relationships, to help create better care for their mental health inside and outside of hospital."

She added: "It was really difficult, I couldn't have visitors or leave, I was feeling very hospitalised while I was there.

"Coming out on discharge it was extremely scary to be back in the community, because I hadn't really left the ward at all for about six and a half months by the time I left.

"It will take lots of emotional and financial strain off families, they can come and see their children rather than having to take time off work, it will be a lot more accessible."

Work starts on young person mental health unit

Those behind campaigns for a children's unit in Cornwall say it is a 'surreal feeling' to know plans are moving forward.

Steve Cowburn lost his son Ben back in 2010, when he took his own life.

His family then created the Invictus Trust in his memory, dedicated to helping other teenagers and young people struggling with mental health issues.

One of their main aims has been to make sure there is a ward for young people in Cornwall, so they don't have to travel out of the county for care.

Steve said: "We decided that we weren't going to be bitter as a family but that we were going to be positive.

"We've been campaigning for this unit ever since then - and now it feels slightly surreal that it is finally happening."

Chair of CFT, Dr. Barbara Vann commented "I am delighted that CFT are able to make this step change in provision for the young people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

"We are planning that services delivered in this new facility will be focused upon their clinical, emotional and physical needs, including their education. This is a momentous development for us."


Groups facilitated by Young People Cornwall have been actively involved in the project for a new CAMHS unit, even officially naming it 'Sowenna', Cornish for welfare and success.

Many of the members of Young People Cornwall have had stays in inpatient units and are able to provide valuable insights.

It is reported that one in 10 children aged five to 16 have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Most young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties are treated and supported within the community, however sometimes for those with severe mental health problems, often with accompanying high risk, require specialist inpatient care.

Historically, these have only been available in units which are a considerable distance from homes, visits and support from family and friends, which play a key element in people's recovery, especially in the case of children.

Marking the start of construction on site, Trust Chief Executive, Phil Confue said: "Today is a significant milestone in the development of our adolescent inpatient unit. As of today, we are counting down to the opening in 12 months.

"For the first time in 2019, young people will be able to access to the full range of mental health services - from community to psychiatric hospital care - in Cornwall. Being able to treat young people closer to home, near family and friends where they can maintain their relationships and friendships will make a huge difference to their recovery."

Artist's impression
Artist's impression of the unit

The unit will be divided into five elements; the entrance area, small living clusters with bedrooms, shared living areas, education block and offices.

Service users will benefit from a dedicated education, therapy and recreation space, sports facilities and a number of courtyards within the unit to allow for light access to outside space and fresh air.

In order to maintain vital community and familial links, the unit will include a public facing café and parental accommodation, and be built on land adjacent to Bodmin Hospital where it will benefit from close links to the Trust's other specialist mental and physical health services.

This initiative delivers on NHS England's commitment to reduce out of area placements for children and young people by increasing bed numbers nationally by 10%.

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