Letter from our Chair, Prof Dame Sue Bailey to Times - published 18th June 2016
Sir, When it comes to promoting the emotional development of children and young people, David Aaronovitch is right to warn against “making crises out of challenges” (“The kids are all right so give parents a break”, Opinion, June 16). Indeed the whole focus of those of us working in children and young people’s mental health is to prevent them.
Research has shown that there was a significant increase in common mental health problems between 1975 and 1999. Data from the last survey of child and adolescent mental health in this country, carried out in 2004, found that one in ten children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 have a clinically diagnosable mental disorder. This data is woefully out of date, and thankfully the government has committed to updating it.
We may not fully understand the reasons for this apparent increase in mental health problems, but we know there are things that will help. For instance, we understand the importance of timely and appropriate treatments for mental health problems. We can help children and young people to understand how they can look after their own health, with their parents, teachers and their wider community supporting them to reach safe autonomy and good mental health. This requires a consistent approach, with a balance between being overprotective and leaving them vulnerable to risk. This helps to build resilience.
The greatest measure of our success as a society is that our children and young people are mentally healthy, and on that count there is a lot more to do.
Professor Dame Sue Bailey
Chairwoman, Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition