Social deprivation linked to poor mental health in children

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data showing the prevalence of mental health problems among young people in England. The numbers suggest that certain groups of are at greater risk of developing a mental health problem in childhood and adolescence, including people who live in social housing, those whose parents have a mental health problem and those whose families need support from benefits.

The research also found that children of all ages whose parents were in receipt of welfare benefits (which are related to low income or disability) were more likely to have a mental disorder than those whose parents were not in receipt of these benefits.

In a recent report, the Children’s Society said: “Reductions in family income, including benefit cuts, are likely to have wide-ranging negative effects on children’s mental health.”

Mind is rolling out a national programme of work with children and young people, including its Whole School Approach, which will initially be delivered in 16 schools in England and Wales, working with up to 17,000 secondary school teachers, parents and students to improve mental wellbeing. The approach will include a self-assessment tool for schools, tailored assemblies and workshops, 1-2-1 sessions for young people in need of more intensive support, and information and training for teachers, the wider school workforce and parents.

Responding to the data, Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said: “We welcome the publication of this data which gives us an insight into the mental health problems thousands of children and young people are facing in England today. The figures highlight what we hear day in, day out at Mind – that your housing situation can have a significant impact on your mental health and that the broken benefits system disproportionately impacts those of us who need support because of a mental health problem, regardless of your age.

“The data also shows that parents’ mental health has a marked impact on the mental wellbeing of their children. By supporting parents’ mental health there is a potential double dividend for their children. However, it is also important that we invest directly in the mental health of young people today. The NHS Long Term Plan provides an opportunity to do that – with specific commitments to new services, better crisis care and a smoother transition from child and adolescent to adult mental health services.

“While these figures give a clear picture of the prevalence of mental health problems among children and young people, much more information is needed to find out why these problems are developing in the first place and how they can be prevented. Mind has begun tackling this through our Whole School Approach, including talking to teachers, parents and young people who have told us they need more support for their mental health and wellbeing. Working together, we are equipping schools with the knowledge and skills to help young people cope and intervene early, to help stop mental health problems from developing further.”

4.5 million UK children are living in poverty

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