According to the Centre for Mental Health, one in six children has a mental health issue, up from one in ten 15 years ago, and one in nine as recently as 2017. A silver lining to this increase is a legitimate focus of the public agenda to work to help these youngsters deal with their mental issues.
A stigma still exists in most of the world that physical health is more important than mental health, but any mental health counselor will tell you that the issues that come from untreated mental health disorders can lead to lifelong bouts with things like anxiety and depression, which ultimately do lead to declines in physical health, as well.
In the UK, two-thirds of children who have an identifiable mental health issue have had contact with a professional regarding treatment. Though still low, this is an increase compared to ten years ago, and the trend continues to move towards providing care to these children, but there is still a lot of work to do to get that number closer to “all children.” Here are a few tips on how to do so.
Inclusive and Accepting
The aforementioned “one in six” number is relative to all children, but these numbers are even higher for individuals who are not fully abled, heterosexual, and Caucasian. With this, continuing to promote an inclusive culture anywhere children interact is a proven means of preventing mental health issues that stem from exclusion and a lack of acceptance. Whether it be sports, school, artistic outlets, or just the weekend birthday party, we can all do better at being conscious of the inclusive nature (or lack of) of the activity and working to make it something for all kids to equally enjoy.
Children in the poorest 20% of UK households are almost four times as likely to develop mental health difficulties as kids, and though most of that stems from a similar feeling of exclusion (based on financial abilities opposed to sexuality or other demographics), it is an issue that can be fixed with legislation and effort.
In addition to being more likely to develop mental health issues, the children from less-affluent households have a more difficult time accessing help for their mental issues. Spreading awareness about these statistics can help increase the availably of social programs to help these individuals evaluate their mental health and care for it when needed.
One of the silver linings of the COVID pandemic was an increase in the use of telehealth services as a way to make more hospital bed space available for those dealing with issues caused by the coronavirus. These telehealth services, that include mental health evaluations, can help increase access to care, as they negate any issues that may have been caused by lacks of transportation or even just the time to go to a hospital. As connectivity continues to increase in poorer communities, so does the ability to use this connectivity to find ways to get treated for mental health issues.
Counselling is the primary means of treatment for most mental health disorders, and increasing awareness about the availability of these services is step one in getting more children the help they need. Many simply don’t know what is available to them. Schools offer counselling services, but some children are, indeed, embarrassed to be seen going to counselling (an issue in and of itself), but options exist elsewhere, including online, as mentioned above. Many of these services have free options, as well as “chat rooms” where kids can talk to other kids experiencing the same things, ultimately helping them with their mental health and decreasing the feelings that asking for that help is something unique to them.
Even though there are increases in mental health cases among youngsters, there are also equivalent increases in resources to help these youngsters. Successful riddance of untreated mental health issues begins with awareness and advocacy, and sharing statistics and simply talking about mental health with your fellow parents can and will truly help children live happier lives.
Contribution by Mark Adams, Counseling Degrees Online.