It is increasingly recognised that significant numbers of children and young people experience mental ill health, but many adults are still unsure of its signs or what to do to help – although new initiatives are beginning to change this.
The statistics on children and young people’s mental health are stark: 1 in 10 have a diagnosable mental disorder – that’s about 3 children in every classroom. Additionally, half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14.
That adds up to a lot of children and young people experiencing a lot of mental ill health across the country. But while it is accepted that the more quickly someone gets help for a mental health problem, the faster they can recover, there are still many adults unsure of what to do to help.
Indeed, a survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that more than a third of adults are unsure of the signs of depression in children. In addition, more than half of adults also lack the confidence to approach a child, or a parent of a child, that they believe may have a mental health problem, in case they are mistaken.
While trepidation over making an approach is understandable – especially if you aren’t a mental health professional – people should still do so, because if that young person does have a mental health problem, it will more than likely only get worse unless they receive help.
This is why websites such as the newly-launched MindEd (www.minded.org.uk) are important. MindEd, which has been created by various organisations including the Royal Colleges of Psychiatrists and GPs, YoungMinds and the National Children’s Bureau, aims to give adults the knowledge and confidence to identify and understand children and young people with mental health problems.
For children and young people experiencing mental ill health, having someone to turn to and talk about their difficulties – be it a parent, teacher, GP, youth worker or whoever – can be vital for them. If that person is equipped with knowledge that can help the young person – such as information on where to go to get more help – then it could perhaps prevent their problems escalating into a crisis.
Knowledge of mental health issues is increasing in the UK – thanks to campaigns such as Time to Change, and its general higher profile in public life – but there are still many people who do not know enough about the subject. Resources such as MindEd can only be a help, and need to be widely promoted so that those who work with children and young people know about them and use them to ensure they can help if – or when – a young person with a mental health problem comes to them for advice.