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Fight continues for mental health unit for youngsters up to 25

Fight continues for mental health unit for youngsters up to 25

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:00am 8th September 2019.

A family from Cornwall continue to campaign for a mental health unit for young people up to the age of 25.

The Duchy's first children's unit, called Sowenna, has opened on the Bodmin Hospital site.

The £11m unit has 14 beds and means for the very first time children and adolescents have access to specialist mental health beds in the county. 

But it only takes children up to 18-years-old.

Steve Cowburn has been fighting for an adolescent unit for nine years, since his son Ben took his own life. The 18-year-old was in an adult mental health unit in the Duchy.

The Invictus Trust was set up to help other struggling youngsters and Ben's family have been pushing for a young person's unit.

They say they're extremely happy with the launch of Sowenna but are continuing to fight for one that helps young people up until they turn 25.

The Sowenna unit has now opened in Bodmin

Steve told Pirate FM there are several possibilities:

"Whilst we are delighted that Sowenna is here it is only a 13 to 18-year-old unit, which means on the day you turn 18 you might have to leave the county again.

"From our point of the view our son Ben wouldn't have even got into this unit as he was a few months over 18, all along we have been campaigning for a unit to cover all of adolescence which is now recognised as going to 25.

"There isn't a unit like that in the UK at the moment, but the NHS 10 year plan is recognising that we do need to move to 25, so we are now pushing that Sowenna either extends its age range, or maybe increase its number of bedrooms, or maybe we can have a mechanism for working with one of the adult wards. But we want to get rid of the 18-year-old barrier and that remains a really strong target for the Invictus Trust.

"What it means is if someone turns 18 while they're in Sowenna they will have to leave, and that might mean that they have to go to London again, or Cheshire, and we don't want that to happen.

"We don't want the stress of knowing you have to leave somewhere when you're starting to get better, just because of your age."

Steve Cowburn, The Invictus Trust

The unit takes young people from 13 to 18-years-old

About the Sowenna unit:

Sowenna has been commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement under a national strategy to move beds closer to the people who need them.

A fundraising appeal for the unit launched in September last year, which has seen in excess of £420,000 raised for 'icing on the cake items'. Vital funds from community groups, local councils, Duchy Health Charity, Garfield Weston Foundation, National Lottery and Wooden Spoon have meant that CFT is able to provide additional and specialist items that will really make a difference to the lives of young people. 

Items include a minibus; a multipurpose activity barn for team sports and performance arts; parental accommodation to allow families to stay over and make admission less unsettling; a café to allow visits with family and friends to happen in a friendly space; therapeutic gardens, and equipment for music, arts and cooking.

Additionally, Sowenna will feature a state-of-the-art sensory room to host innovative virtual reality (VR) environments that will be offered to young people during periods of emotional distress. Users will be able to touch, feel, walk or even lie down during their five minute long VR experience, which will be supervised by a clinician at all times.

Inpatients will also benefit from a specialist education block within the unit.

The Wave Multi-Academy Trust, who will form part of the specialist team, will be providing a comprehensive education programme tailored to each inpatient's individual learning requirements whilst receiving treatment at Sowenna. 

This initiative delivers on the NHS's commitment to reduce out of area placements for children and young people by improving access to beds whilst strengthening community services, so that any admission is for the shortest period of time.

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