Is children’s mental health given enough priority?

Children’s Mental Health Week (4th-10th February) takes the theme of Healthy: Inside and Out, and aims to encourage children, young people and adults to look after their bodies and their mind.

Whilst guidance on healthy and unhealthy food and lifestyle choices are well promoted, mental health strategies are certainly less developed and understood. With a recent report by the Public Accounts Committee showing that only a third of children and young people with mental health conditions receive the treatment they need from the NHS, this is perhaps a sign of how big the issue is.

One prominent voice in the media over the past month has been Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). “Unfortunately, children’s mental health hasn’t so far been seen as a priority. This is being played out in the small amount of services being directed to children’s mental health,” said Alana Ryan, senior policy and public affairs officer at CAMHS.

Ensuring that every child has access to quality PSHE has been suggested as one way that schools can help to ease the pressure. Young people need support to enable them to communicate what may be troubling them and information on who is available to talk to. Work needs to begin in primary schools to enable children to develop their self-confidence and self-worth and prevent mental ill health.

Through an integrated programme, 1decision supports and encourages children and young people to look after their bodies and minds by focussing on areas such as healthy eating, regular exercise, reduced screen time, sufficient sleep and more. Our ‘Feelings and Emotions’ module helps children explore their own feelings further, as well as the feelings of those around them.

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5th Feb, 2019) we also have Safer Internet Day, and we have prepared a special lesson plan for schools to download. This provides a perfect opportunity to educate students on recognising the impact of social media on our mental wellbeing.

Online safety has been in the news again recently with the story of 14-year-old Molly Russell who took her own life after viewing disturbing content about suicide on social media, prompting Health Secretary Matt Hancock to warn that social media could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content.

Research published by Ofcom in September 2018, which surveyed almost 2,000 Britons, found that 45% reported they had suffered some form of harm online. We must help children and young people build the resilience to cope with the new pressures that the ever-present technology and social media brings.

We hope to support more schools during Children’s Mental Health Week and Safer Internet Day.

Hayley Sherwood, creator of 1decision, part of Headway learning resources

4th February 2019

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