State of Child Health Report highlights mental ill-health as ‘epidemic of our time for our children’

Friday 3rd February 2017 - Elisa Mascellani, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer

This week the Royal Society of Pediatrics and Child Health published their first ever State of Child Health Report 2017, highlighting that the UK needs to do far more to improve child health and wellbeing and describing mental health problems as one of “the two epidemics of our time for our children” alongside obesity. 

The report adds to the growing body of evidence for the compelling need to do much more, and earlier, to support children’s mental health.  It highlights the fact that half of all adult mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% start before the age of 24 and stresses that early identification and early intervention are essential in ensuring that young people can achieve their potential.  

Further, one of the main concerns raised by the children who were interviewed as part of the research was mental health, particularly issues around self-esteem and self- confidence (on a personal level and within relationships), lack of support in both primary and secondary schools and the need to reduce waiting times for mental health services.

Already this year we have seen the issue of support within schools for children’s mental health and wellbeing come further up with political agenda with the Prime Minister’s speech on the 9th January promising more work in schools to support children’s mental health.  Other than mental health first aid training, the details are limited but there was further welcome discussion on the need for early intervention and prevention to support children’s mental health and wellbeing in schools in a debate in Parliament on the 10th January.  

Now we need to see the rhetoric turned into a reality with more investment in early support for children’s wellbeing and mental health.  

That’s why we launched the Nurture Portrait in December, the first edition of an annual portrayal of the social, emotional and behavioural difficulties experienced by children and young people across the UK.

In the report, we recommend using the Boxall Profile in all schools to identify and respond as early as possible to pupils’ social emotional and behavioural difficulties and needs. We believe this is a critical first step that local authorities and schools should take to help teachers to understand the wellbeing of the children in their classes and to ensure those who need it are supported at the earliest possible stage.