#timetotalk – Supporting Children’s Mental Health

Today is Time To Talk Day – a day to talk about mental health with friends, family and colleagues. Time to Change organises #timetotalk on the first Thursday in February each year. Lib Dem Voice would love to have your stories and thoughts on mental health – please send them in and we will post as many as possible.

I will start with a post on children and mental health – we most likely won’t get any submissions from children today, but to me, getting children’s mental health care right is paramount.

Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24.” And the alarming statistics continue. “Suicide is the most common cause of death for boys aged between 5-19 years, and the second most common for girls of this age.” Unless we get mental health care right during childhood, we are condemning many to a lifetime of mental ill-health.

Early diagnosis and treatment can change lives. If proper help and support are given to children when they first exhibit signs of mental ill-health, long-term prognosis improves dramatically.

There is currently a government inquiry on a green paper on this subject: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It is being overseen by both the Parliamentary Health and Education Select Committees:

The Education and Health Select Committees recognise that the provision of mental health services to children and young people is of vital importance to safeguarding their wellbeing. Good mental health is not only of great value in itself, but it allows young people to take greater advantage of educational opportunities.

In light of the publication of the Government’s green paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, the House of Commons Select Committees on Health and Education have agreed to launch a joint inquiry to scrutinise the proposed scope and implementation of the green paper, and to follow up on their previous recommendations.

A huge amount of evidence was published on Tuesday with links here.

In oral evidence to the Parliamentary Health and Education Committees on new proposals for the green paper, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, spoke. Her view was that whilst the proposals were good, they were not nearly enough.

Longfield welcomed the green paper, and particularly the increased early intervention and the work in schools. However, she did not feel this would transform children’s and mental health care – that the green paper was not nearly ambitious enough. She called for a ‘fouth pillar’, a framework and benchmark for what is possible, which would measure what is achieved.

Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Vice Chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, also gave evidence. She spoke positively about the health and education departments working together, that there needed to be joined up strategy across government departments. However, she felt that not enough money was allocated for children’s mental health care. She thought there were more questions than answers in the green paper. Dr Knightsmith recognised that a lot of good work was already being done, and that a strategic approach was needed that incorporates what is currently happening.

Our children are the future. We must care for their physical and mental well-being, with an integrated whole-person approach.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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