The mental health and emotional wellbeing of our young people is of national importance and it is only right that finally it is beginning to get serious attention from national politicians. The Department for Education’s own reckoning is that on top of the 10% of young people that already have a mental health disorder an additional 15% are at increased risk of developing one. Our young people are suffering from a mental health epidemic that is all too easily overlooked.
This is not a trivial issue; some of these disorders cause fundamental damage to peoples’ lives as the cause of a substantial amount of poor behaviour, exclusions and absences at school and understandably reducing academic attainment. As this article identifies, ultimately these issues can lead to death, with over 1,000 10-18 year olds dying per year. The Coalition has begun to address this but there can be no respite or complacency. The fact that 75% of adults with mental health conditions (excluding dementia) had developed them before the age of 18 is testament to the fact that we are not effectively dealing with the issue.
What is the solution to the child mental health crisis? We believe that it is not too dissimilar to the approach taken to a variety of formerly deadly physical diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and measles for which we now routinely vaccinate children for; prevention is better, and cheaper, than cure. It is pleasing to see national politicians discussing the importance of child mental health services. However, simply promising more NHS funding is not likely to be the best value solution, even if we could afford it.
We are a non-profit social enterprise working to administer cheap mental health checks to all children and young people in the schools that they attend every day and emotional resilience training that will help to ‘vaccinate’ them against mental health disorders. Our standard six week resilience programmes cost less than a single hour with an experienced psychotherapist per young person and can be easily delivered to an entire year group and we are already dedicated to working with other agencies. The lifetime savings of intervening in conduct disorders can be between £75,000 and £150,000. It would be good to hear politicians talking more about what can realistically be done to prevent child mental health issues rather than just making bold promises about waiting times and funding. Nonetheless, it is good to see the issue being talked about.