This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and, according to a new survey published by oganisers Place 2 Be, one in five children are now experiencing mental health problems before the age of 11. Place 2 Be is a national counselling and support network and their patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, released a video to support awareness of mental health issues for children and highlighted the key theme's for 2016: 'building resilience' and teaching children to 'bounce forward' from life's challenges.
Last year Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced a £3 million investment for mental health “schools link” pilots, promising to join health services with schools. It's much-needed according to the National Association of Head Teachers, who say there as many as 3 million pupils who are not getting access to adequate support.
But, while hugely important, increased access to mental health provision in schools, including the training of specialist school staff to spot the tell-tale signs of a child who is struggling, is just one part of the story. In a survey of parents about children's mental health, the results showed mums and dads often feel uncomfortable asking for, and accepting, help:
• Almost a third (30%) of parents of children aged 5-18 admit they would feel embarrassed if their child wanted counselling in school
• One in five parents (22%) would not encourage their child to take up counselling in school, even if they asked for it
As parents, we clearly need to talk about the problem. The more we do, the more we ask questions in schools, the more we recognise mental health problems in the same way we do 'normal' health problems – i.e. as something that has causes, symptoms and treatment – the more we will remove the stigma around children's mental health.
Worried about your child's mental health? Visit Place2Be for ideas and tips: https://www.place2be.org.uk/
Young Minds also offers a free helpline for parents concerned about their child's mential health.: https://youngminds.org.uk/