By Sarah Hughes

 

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year its focus is on ‘children and young people in a changing world’.

 

The mental health needs of children and young people have perhaps never been more prominent or newsworthy. Every day we see more headlines about rising levels of distress among children and young people and the lack of support many encounter before they hit crisis point. It is clear that something has to be done.

 

And yet it’s easy to jump to conclusions about what is behind the rise in demand for children and young people’s mental health support and how to respond to it. At the Centre, we’re keen to make sure that we contribute meaningful insight which sheds light on this crucial topic and informs policy with high quality evidence. That’s why we will continue to put forward the facts about children’s mental health, and the solutions which can truly begin to address the injustices we see across the country.

At the Centre, we’re keen to make sure that we contribute meaningful insight which sheds light on this crucial topic and informs policy with high quality evidence.

That means looking very differently at how we support children and young people’s mental health. So while we urgently need to keep investing in children’s mental health services, we also need to look more widely at building up systems of support in local communities: Promoting good mental health, preventing problems whenever possible, and offering help quickly when it’s needed. And we need to invest in proven solutions like parenting programmes and in innovative, peer-led services which are reaching marginalised young people in a way that statutory services have often failed to do.

 

So while we urgently need to keep investing in children’s mental health services, we also need to look more widely at building up systems of support in local communities: Promoting good mental health, preventing problems whenever possible, and offering help quickly when it’s needed.

 

There has been an undeniable rise in children presenting with mental health problems and, despite debates across media, the reasons behind this are complex and nuanced. We cannot underestimate the impact of social media on children and young people’s wellbeing, but neither can we conveniently lay the blame on them for all of young people’s problems. So we need to develop a fuller understanding of what influences young people’s mental health and how they negotiate the challenges of twenty-first century life so that we can give them the right help in the right ways.

 

For over thirty years, we’ve been advocating for better mental health support for young people. We will not stop doing so until every young person gets timely and effective support to address mental health difficulties, or prevent them from happening in the first place.