THE BLOG

The Duchess of Cambridge Is Right - Young Minds Really Do Matter

22/02/2016 12:07 GMT | Updated 19/02/2017 10:12 GMT

There are some moments in our society that we look back on and realise the world really did change a bit that day. When Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge took on the Editorship of the Huffington Post last week, that's what happened for our society's collective understanding of mental health issues, particularly in children.

One of the things that has made me so proud to work in the psychology field over the past decade has been how far we have come in this time. Think back ten years ago when the golfer Tiger Woods described his performance as playing like a "spaz", which received criticism from disability groups, but saw a troublingly widespread acceptance of his comments amongst the public. Today, a reference like that would receive short shrift from both public and professional audiences, as our understanding grows.

This is particularly notable with younger audiences, who have really started to acknowledge the importance of adopting a patient and respectful attitude to mental health issues. This of course has its roots in their family life, education, and popular culture, which have collectively moved forward in a very positive way.

However, there is still much to be done, to build on the platform we have created for ourselves.

As the Duchess makes clear in her launch blog, "For too long we have been embarrassed to admit when our children need emotional or psychiatric help, worried that the stigma associated with these problems would be detrimental to their futures.

"Research published today by the Huffington Post indicates that around a third of parents still worry that they will look like a bad mother or father if their child has a mental health problem. Parenting is hard enough without letting prejudices stop us from asking for the help we need for ourselves and our children."

It's this last point that resonates so strongly with me as a psychology professional, and is a timely reminder that we must not let all the progress stall, and must continue to develop our attitudes and knowledge about mental health.

We see this in clinic, when, despite their best efforts, some parents still lack the basic understanding about mental health, fearing the term as somehow taboo or toxic. However, the only toxicity comes from ignorance about the issues in question, and in every case I have ever worked on when a parent leaves their preconceptions at the door and actively engages with the work we do then they have the lightbulb moment. This makes them better parents, happier people, and more rounded members of society.

I congratulate the Huffington Post and the Duchess on their collaboration here, and already the buzz within the psychology field indicates this has played its part in urging us all to raise our game, and make the difference for how we deal with mental health in future. I am excited about what the next decade brings, and how we will look back at what happened this week as a true springboard for progress.

Dr Becky Spelman is a TV psychologist with a Harley Street practice at www.theprivatetherapyclinic.co.uk