In her annual report, Dame Sally Davies writes that more needs to be done to give children a good start with their health as the UK "lags behind other European countries".
Among the key recommendations within 'Our Children Deserve Better, Prevention Pays' is the call for a survey of young people's mental health, amid concerns that only 25% of children with clinical mental health disorders receive specialist help within three years.
Dame Davies hopes her report will act as a "wake-up call" to society on the importance of the interplay between mental and physical health, social environment, emotional environment and education.
Focus on early intervention is crucial
Mental health associations have backed Dame Davies' call for greater focus on the impact of mental ill health among children.
Barbara McIntosh, of the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, said: "Investing in the health of children and young people’s is essential if we are to prevent physical and mental health problems becoming chronic and enduring. It is essential that Government accepts the recommendations made [in the CMO's report] and these are implemented at both national and local levels.
"The focus on early intervention is essential, but we believe that there needs to be more emphasis on infant mental health. We believe that all parents/carers must have access to information with additional targeted support for vulnerable parents to promote babies emotional development in the first three years."
Other key findings included:
• Nearly 27% of UK children are either in or at serious risk of being in poverty, compared with just 16% in the Netherlands
• 75% of lifetime mental health disorders start before 18 years of age, with the peak onset of most conditions being from 8 to 15 years
• About 10% of adolescents are suffering from a mental health problem at any one time.
Alongside the mental health survey, Dame Davies also recommended the appointment of a named GP for every child with a long-term condition as well as the creation of a new national children's week to celebrate children and young people.
Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, welcomed the report. She said: "The chief medical officer has hit the nail on the head – early intervention is the key to improving the outcomes for children and young people.
"Her report is also absolutely right to highlight the particular problem around lack of prevalence data for children and young people’s mental health. We will always struggle to support children and young people with mental health disorders until we know the true scale of the problems that they face."
To read the report in full visit: www.gov.uk/government/news/chief-medical-officer-prevention-pays-our-children-deserve-better