This week, schools, families and organisations are celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week – a time to shine light on the mental health of children and people.

The awareness week, started by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, is intended to spread awareness of the health and well-being of children and look at how we can better support those who are struggling.

Now in its sixth year, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 will span from 3rd to the 9th February and will focus on the theme of Find Your Brave. It will encourage children to find positive ways to deal with things that might be difficult, whether it’s sharing their worries and asking for help; trying something new or pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. Finding their Brave can help children build their confidence and self-esteem, and feel good about themselves.

According to Place2Be, around three children in every primary school class has a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges, from bullying to bereavement.

Whether you’re a teacher, parent, carer or someone else who works with children, you can get involved with Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week by spreading the word, raising vital funds for Place2Be (or another children’s charity), or working to promote and support mental health in your school.

Teachers can teach a whole lesson on mental health using the free activity resources available from Place2Be.

The Mindfulness in Schools Project community (MiSP) are also inviting schools and students to take part in a ‘mindful sit’ – which will involve sitting quietly for ten minutes – to mark the importance of the week. Classes can either join in the official sit on Wednesday 5th February or arrange their own sit at a time to suit them.

Students and teachers can also take part in Inside Out Day on Thursday 6th February, which involves wearing an item of clothing inside out to raise awareness of mental health. The campaign was originally started by mother-of-four Jo Novick at her children’s school, but has since found growing support at other schools and on social media. It is intended to make people stop and consider that others may look okay on the outside, despite feeling distressed on the inside.

Children’s Mental Health Problems on the Rise

According to NHS England, the prevalence of mental health problems in children aged between five and 15 has risen from 9.7% in 1999 to 11.2% in 2017.

Reduced community services and rising mental health issues among Britain’s youth have meant the NHS has been unable to keep up with demand. As a result, the UK has seen a 330% surge in crisis admissions at hospital emergency departments since 2010.

The rise in A&E admissions comes as new data shoes NHS mental health trusts are restricting services for children unless they are severely unwell. Out of the 29 trusts, only six accept referrals for children with all severities of mental health problems.

Image credit: Eliott Reyna

Dr Maddi Ridley, a GP in Essex speaking to The Independent said: “Referrals come back saying the patient doesn’t meet the criteria and suggesting where the child or adult can get support locally from counselling services run by charities.

“But often they need a doctor or a psychiatrist and charities don’t have that option. We’ve seen quite a number of deaths by suicide in teenage children in our area. Children are really struggling with mental health and we don’t have a lot to offer.”

An NHS spokesperson responded, saying that the NHS is ahead of its target on ensuring as many children as possible receive mental health care, seeing an extra 53,000 children, teenagers and young adults last year, a 14% increase on the year before.

The NHS’ long-term plan clearly sets out that all children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to access crisis care 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 2023-24.

Place2Be childrens charity

About Place2Be

Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity that provides counselling, mental health support and training to UK schools, using tried and tested methods backed by research.

Last year, the charity worked with 639 schools across England, Scotland and Wales, reaching 364,080 children and young people. Over 300 schools also took part in their in-depth ‘Mental Health Champions’ programmes, which aim to equip school leaders, teachers and staff with the skills and confidence to support pupils’ mental health.

1,661 child counsellors also took part in Place2Be’s training programmes, building an ever-growing body of professionals who specialise working with children and young people.