The Growing Concern about Children’s Mental Health

This week is #childrensmentalhealthweek. Whoever knew such a thing existed? More importantly, when did it become necessary to have a week dedicated to raising awareness of this growing phenomena? As parents, and as a society, it is time to take stock and really consider the direction we are heading in.

In a recent survey that I conducted of parents of teenage children, they told me the following:

(1) that they were worried about the effects of social media;

(2) That they were very worried about their child suffering anxiety (considerably more so than other common mental health problems); and

(3) That they felt helplessness in knowing what to do to help their teenager with their mental health and wellbeing.

In the UK, the specialist National Health Service, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), is struggling to manage the ever growing referrals from GPs; and with GPs being unable to subscribe medication for mental health problems in children without prior agreement from a Child Psychiatrist, there is a vast and growing gap between need and provision.

A client of mine recently told me they were waiting for an appointment with CAMHS for a formal diagnosis, so that a treatment plan could be implemented. Only to be told that once that diagnosis happened (waiting time at least 8 months and likely to be more) there would be a waiting list for treatment. No wonder parents feel helpless. The options for private treatment, for those who can afford it are also limited. I know of another case where the parents of a seriously depressed child simply could not get a fast referral, it was only when that teenager made a suicide attempt that a referral was made and treatment commenced. What a crazy world we live in, where it takes such extreme lengths to be able to get help.

Changes to Mental Health and Well-being Approach:

However, things are changing. In 2015 the UK Government supported a wider message; promoting positive mental health and well-being as a wider ranging approach to children’s mental health services. Today, if a child is suffering an emotional disorder (such as anxiety) GPs are as likely (if not more so) to direct parents and teenagers to a wellbeing course as they are to refer them to CAMHS. This wider approach has also seen an increase in wellbeing services within schools and a greater emphasis on understanding emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

But here’s the elephant in the room, the stealth problem if you like….

One sixth of the UK population (age 16-18) experience mental health problems at any one time; 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men report mental health issues and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49 (NHS Digital Survey, 2018).

With one third of sick notes for mental health problems and people being signed off for longer than for physical problems, we have to ask ourselves…

Exactly how are we role-modelling positive mental health and well-being to our children?

With more adults seeking help, and more children needing help, we seem to be in midst of a vicious cycle.

For me personally, I have found my passion, my Why? I can now easily answer the question, “What impact do you want to make?”

The impact I want to make is to help all those who come into contact with young people, whether as parents, extended family, caregivers, teachers, youth workers, and so on; to develop our resilience skills so we can all experience positive mental health and well-being, and to be able to role-model resilience skills to our children and young people.

By demonstrating resilience skills we will empower young people to learn those skills and develop their own resilience, in every walk of life. In so doing I hope to impact the many, not the few, to Live Life Stronger.

I have recently completed my latest ebook, the Six Essential Steps to Instantly Improve Your Relationship with Your Teen. Subscribe and download for free here: It contains some straightforward tips to try now, as well as useful strategies for coping with anxiety specifically.

I hope it is helpful.

Dr Joselyn Sellen

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