A pupil pupil from Bangabandhu Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London, stands in front of a world map. © Unicef UK/14/ Susannah Fields
A pupil pupil from Bangabandhu Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London, stands in front of a world map. © Unicef UK/14/ Susannah Fields

Blog: Babies, children and young people’s mental health in the UK

An opportunity to make ‘Every Mind Matter’

Monday 10th October

By Joanna Moody, Senior Policy Advisor – Child Mental Health & Wellbeing

Today is World Mental Health Day. A day where we come together to highlight the importance of promoting good mental health and support for those who need it.  

The theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority‘.  

Sadly, we know this isn’t currently the case, with people experiencing mental ill-health still facing discrimination and stigma, and historic underfunding in mental health services across the world, including for children in the UK. 

Making mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority means not only opening a conversation on mental health, but by backing up these conversations with action. Children and young people in the UK and their parents/carers are more aware of mental health than ever before, but waiting lists and limited resources continue to limit children’s access to help. Young Minds’ survey showed over 40% of children and young people surveyed waited more than a month for mental health support after seeking it, and shockingly more than a quarter of young people have tried to end their lives while waiting for mental health support.  

Across the UK progress is being made, albeit not fast enough to meet the rising needs of children and young people. Positive investment in mental health support teams in schools in England has seen 287 teams across the country this year, with more to come. However, with the goal to “ensure that 100% of children and young people who need specialist care can access it” over the next decade, more focus is needed now from governments and ministers to achieve this. 

Policies and investment on mental health also don’t focus enough on prevention and early intervention across government, including the importance of social and emotional wellbeing in early childhood. Early childhood experiences have significant impacts on future mental health, but this isn’t reflected in the amount invested in supporting this.  

The recent consultations on the 10-year Mental Health Plan in England, and Mental Health and wellbeing strategy in Scotland are great opportunities to for governments to push forward progress, to promote better mental health and support for those who need it. To have the necessary impact these plans need reinforced commitment from new government ministers across departments. Success is dependent on a focus on prevention, committed funding, and a sustainable workforce plan for their success.  

In our recent submission for the Mental Health Plan for England, we highlighted the following for inclusion:  

  • Ensuring all babies and their parents/carers have access to the basic services that support their wellbeing and prevent problems developing, including health visiting, affordable early education, and parent-infant relationship support.  
  • Ensuring every baby, child or young person and their parent/carers can access the mental health support they need, when they need it.  
  • Meeting commitments to improve wellbeing and access to support in schools, communities and local areas, including through local hubs.  
  • Demonstrating cross-government prioritisation of children’s mental health by improving the spaces we live in, ensuring financial support is there for the families who need it, and including mental health impacts as a key measure for success across policies.  
  • Securing sustainable, long-term and predictable investment in prevention, services and support both across the NHS, education and voluntary sectors.
  • Involving children and young people, and parents/carers in meaningful engagement in policy development from the start.  

There is a huge opportunity through these plans to improve the lives of babies, children and young people across the UK, and support better mental health for all.  

UNICEF UK will continue to support governments in this across the four nations to truly make mental health and wellbeing a global priority for all.  

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