LETTER: Emotional fight

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Childhood should be a special time, packed full of happy memories.

But for too many youngsters it is a struggle as they battle with emotional and mental health illnesses and do not get the support they so desperately need.

Barnardo’s is extremely concerned about the scale of the problem in the UK. Three children in every classroom is suffering from a diagnosable mental health problem.

Mental health problems can lead to young people being disruptive, difficult, withdrawn and disturbed and it’s vital they are supported and not just ignored or told off.

It was very welcome to recently hear Theresa May pledging to tackle the issue – and ensure it is as high a priority for the Government as physical health problems.

Mental health problems have a deep impact on young people’s lives and those around them as those who suffer from a mental health issue are more likely to be absent or excluded from school, or be not in education or training (NEET). They are also at a much higher risk of self-harm or suicide than their classmates.

We want to see a dual approach combining early intervention and prevention and quicker access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) when required. It is essential for all schools to have professional mental health services on site as the Government must ensure that all children and young people get timely support. It is equally important to work alongside parents and carers so that they are able to pick up on any issues early and know how to support their children and where to go for help.

Supporting vulnerable children is at the heart of Barnardo’s work. We can help the government tackle mental health issues in schools, as our work with young people in education is focused around specific programmes to address mental health and emotional wellbeing. In primary schools we offer two programmes, one for the younger children and then another for older ones as they prepare to start secondary school.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s focus on initiatives in schools as sooner the problems are picked up, the sooner they can be treated so youngsters can thrive and live happy, healthy lives.

Jonathan Whalley

Barnardo’s South East and Anglia Regional Director

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