Children’s mental health week was highlighted to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Mental health effects everyone so encouraging younger children to get involved in expressing themselves and being part of the discussion from a young age is captivating.
From 1-7 February 2023 schools, youth groups, organisations and individuals across the UK will take part in Children’s Mental Health Week. This year’s theme was 'Let's Connect', which was encouraging people to make healthy, rewarding, and meaningful connections.
Understanding the links between communication difficulties and mental health challenges is vital in promoting children to express themselves and speak up.
Research shows that 45% of young people referred for mental health services have communication difficulties. Frustration, a sense of isolation, and confusion can all compound feelings of distress and anxiety and contribute to poor mental health. Many children and young people with one of the more severe forms of SLCN, Developmental Language Disorder, suffer from mental health problems. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that many interventions to support children’s mental health are based on talking. These interventions are likely to be less effective if children and young people have a language difficulty and adults supporting them need to make adjustments to allow for this.
Children need support from their teachers and families however, research shows that almost a third (29%) of parents admit they would feel embarrassed if their child wanted counselling, and 34% feel other parents would judge them.
The findings of the survey of 1029 parents of children aged 5 – 18 years reveal that despite greater awareness and successful anti-stigma campaigns over the past six years, there is still work to be done. Attitudes among parents remain largely unchanged since the first Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015, when 30% of parents reported they would be embarrassed if their child wanted counselling.
In the latest survey, dads were more likely to feel uncomfortable (37% said they’d feel embarrassed, compared to 22% of mums), which also reflects very similar results in 2015 (38% vs 23%)
The pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll. Almost one in six (15%) parents rated their child’s mental health as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, and 31% said it is ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ than before the pandemic. Despite the stigma, half (50%) of parents said the pandemic has made them more likely to encourage their child to have counselling if they need it.
Did you know that half of lifetime mental illness starts by the age of 14? Childhood trauma can have long lasting effects on an individual and even cause instability in adult years yet, on average, local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) spend less than 1% of their overall budget on children’s mental health and 14 times more on adult mental health services than on services for children. If children are the future, then shouldn’t the UK’s children’s mental health system be a more supporting system?
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