THE BLOG

Good Mental Health And Wellbeing Starts In Childhood

10/05/2017 12:24 BST | Updated 10/05/2017 12:24 BST
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In a joint inquiry last week, MPs from the Health and Education Committees highlighted the fact that half of all cases of mental illness in adult life start before the age of 15 and that one in 10 children aged between five and 16 have had a diagnosed mental health condition.

Problems can start even earlier, with evidence from the teachers' union BASWT last month showing that four-year-olds were suffering panic attacks, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

The case for investing in services is clear. However, at the same time as we see growing concern at the poor state of our children's mental health, the pressure on budgets across the entire health and social care system has led to cuts in early support. This is in turn increasing the pressure on specialist mental health services.

Action for Children is devoting more and more time and effort to help children and families tackle mental health issues. Our schools-based 'Talk Time' service in Derbyshire is a strong example of how beneficial early support can be. We work with a child, their family and the school to find out what is behind the unhappiness and to make things better, or at least more manageable.

Ten-year-old Harry was referred to 'Talk Time' having grown up witnessing his father being physically and verbally aggressive towards his mum. Seeing his parents arguing daily and witnessing the family unit break down had a profoundly negative effect on Harry. He struggled with his self-esteem, rarely interacted with anyone and had been taught from an early age by his dad not to show any emotion.

We took the time to listen to Harry's needs and provided him with one-to-one support to improve his confidence. On learning that he was due to have swimming lessons at school and was worried he would be the only pupil in his class who couldn't swim, we provided him with private swimming tuition. This simple intervention helped build Harry's self-confidence in a new situation, resulting in his mum being surprised to hear Harry talk excitedly for the first time about his progress after each lesson.

It is critical we are able to give children like Harry the support and guidance that will lead them into adulthood with the resilience they need to cope in life. As one of over 100 organisations that make up The Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, Action for Children is calling on all political parties to stand up and make a strong commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people.

We are calling on to the next Government to invest in preventative approaches to improve both child and adult mental health and wellbeing.

Children and young people's mental health and wellbeing is the most important issue of our time. Any Government who truly aspires to a healthy society must acknowledge in policy and practice that the key to this end is children and young people's mental health.

Find out more about The Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition. Follow Action for Children on Twitter @actnforchildren.