We are sleep-walking into a mental health crisis, says Barnardo's

By agency reporter
May 9, 2018

The government must urgently address the deepening mental health crisis threatening thousands of vulnerable young children, says Barnardo’s. The children’s charity calls on the Prime Minister to act on her promise to tackle the “burning injustice” of people not having enough “help at hand” if they suffer with a mental health illness.

It is estimated that one in 10 schoolchildren has a diagnosable mental health condition with many not receiving timely, appropriate support. 

The UK’s leading children’s charity, which supports thousands of children with mental health problems, is kick-starting the debate about what society needs to do by holding an inaugural annual lecture on the issue this week (9 May 2018).

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said: "Too little is being done, too late to tackle the burning injustice of the mental health crisis facing thousands of vulnerable children. We are sleep-walking into a mental health crisis.

"Theresa May said a new approach was needed from government  but actions speak louder than words and action is what is urgently required.

"An honest debate about how society can tackle this growing mental health problem by giving the right support early on to children is welcome."

Barnardo’s wants experts to consider the growing evidence that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – which include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, being from a household where there is substance abuse, being exposed to domestic violence or having a parent in prison – are a key risk factor in poor mental health and wellbeing.

Being exposed to four or more ACEs, or trauma, is regarded as a tipping point for significant impact on a child’s mental health. But Barnardo’s says if early intervention and support are given then poor outcomes are not inevitable.

It is calling on the government to ensure that the  evidence base on ACE’s is a key part of a robust and long-term mental health and well-being strategy.

Javed Khan added, "Our experience shows just how important this is. The children we work with every day – from victims of child trafficking and children in care to those who have a parent in prison – are amongst the most vulnerable in the UK.

"Barnardo’s does everything it can to help them recover and build their resilience because we believe that facing adverse childhood experiences does not make poor outcomes inevitable."

The keynote speaker for the lecture is Gordon Harold, Professor of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex.

He has worked with Barnardo’s Cymru to develop an assessment tool which focuses on identifying ACEs early and assessing the long term risks to children so they can get the necessary support. It is hoped to roll a version of this out across the UK.

Professor Harold said, "The science of understanding what helps and what puts children’s development at risk is becoming increasingly robust, with new evidence highlighting the power of early childhood experiences as a major influence on long-term mental health, physical health, employability, and intergenerational transmission patterns of health and mental health outcomes.

"Barnardo’s is to be commended for organising this event to not only raise awareness of the significance of early experiences for children’s long-term outcomes, but more importantly to highlight what can be done to engage front-line practice to assist in reducing poor outcomes through effective early intervention and prevention programme strategies."

* Barnardo's http://www.barnardos.org.uk/

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