As Children’s Mental Health Week 2024 unfolds, the spotlight intensifies on the critical importance of mental health among our young population. This year, the initiative champions a powerful theme: encouraging young people to express their opinions and reminding them of their intrinsic right to be heard. Emphasising the UN Convention on the Child’s decree, “Every child has the right to express their views, feelings, and wishes in all matters affecting them,” the aim is to empower children from diverse backgrounds to create positive change for their mental health and wellbeing, reinforcing the message, “My Voice Matters.”
Launched by Place2Be in 2015, Children’s Mental Health Week seeks to raise awareness and funds to support the mental health of children and young people. It’s a call to action for schools, families, and communities across the UK to come together in recognising the challenges faced by young individuals and fostering environments where their mental health is a priority.
For full-time working parents, the task of noticing the signs of mental health issues in their children can be particularly daunting. Busy schedules and daily demands can sometimes obscure the subtle changes in behaviour or mood that indicate a child is struggling. However, recent statistics from the NHS serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need to prioritise our children’s mental health.
The recent NHS data has laid bare a “devastating explosion” of mental illness among children in England, with referrals skyrocketing by 53% in three years. The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ analysis reveals that over 32,000 children were referred to crisis teams in 2022-23, a stark increase from the 21,242 referrals before the pandemic. This surge, attributed to lengthy waiting lists for regular treatment, signifies a dire situation where over 600 children a week reach crisis points, including those suicidal or severely affected by conditions like eating disorders. Such figures represent a critical wake-up call, urging immediate government action to address the burgeoning crisis and ensure timely, preventative care for our youth.
In response to these distressing statistics, Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO of Health Assured, emphasises the importance of building a supportive network for children. Recognising the unique ways in which children manifest their struggles, Stern-Gillet advises on fostering open, trusting relationships where children feel safe to express their feelings. It’s vital to normalise conversations about mental health, providing children with coping mechanisms and the assurance of a non-judgmental space. “As parents, it’s our job to ensure that our children can talk to us about any issue, however big or small,” he states, highlighting the role of parents as pivotal in guiding their children through life’s challenges with empathy and understanding.
Bertrand goes on to conclude:
We’ve all been children and can all remember the dread we felt at one time or another. Cast your mind back to your younger days whilst keeping in mind just how much societal pressures have changed. Having a parental role model is key to helping children grow and mature in a healthy way, able to get through whatever life may throw at them.
Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO of Health Assured
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.