The Children’s Society has announced plans to expand its work on children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing after suggested that "the mental health needs of the most vulnerable young people in particular are so often overlooked".
The charity, which campaigns and provides services for children in poverty and teenagers at risk of neglect, is calling for investment in prevention and early intervention services – including in schools – to address problems before they can develop into more serious conditions.
As part of this it is calling for a national focus on positive mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience in schools and communities, through the curriculum as well as through targeted support.
Their call comes as new research has suggested that strong associations exist between mental illness in young people, ‘everyday’ social problems and disadvantage.
It is arguing that the pre-election announcement of £1.25 billion funding for children and adolescent mental health services should be ring-fenced to make sure local areas can invest it in early intervention and specialist services, including targeted support for vulnerable older teenagers and victims of child sexual exploitation.
The charity is also calling for better access and support for the most vulnerable groups of young people who can often by overlooked by services, including older teenagers and those who may have experienced, or are at risk of, sexual abuse, domestic violence or homelessness.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Children and young people are under huge pressures and yet they are made to wait to receive the help they need with issues like depression or anxiety, if they are able to access help at all.
“The mental health needs of the most vulnerable young people in particular are so often overlooked when they are crying out for help to deal with the emotional impact of abuse and neglect.
“We believe schools are the ideal places to start identifying and meeting the mental health and emotional needs of pupils at an early stage. They offer a safe environment for children and young people to address issues that can have an impact on mental health, such as low self-esteem, bullying, and exam anxiety. Through our work, we know all these issues can be early warning signs of future risks for young people such as running away, falling into gangs, and even being at risk of exploitation and abuse.
“That’s why we are asking government to ring-fence investment in this area, and why we hope to use our experience and expertise to prevent children’s mental health problems having lasting effects.”