Reaching Out: The Children’s Society Report on Young People’s View Of Mental Health Support

The Children’s Society have launched their review of young people’s views on mental health support. The report’s aim is to better understand where children would go for help if they had concerns about their feelings or behaviours.

The researchers worked with a small group of young people to set questions which were then added to The Children’s Society Annual Household Survey.

“Instead of using the phrase ‘mental health’, they told us they would be happier being asked about their ‘feelings and behaviour’. While this may not align with formal definitions of mental ill-health, it ensured that the information collected focussed on feelings and behaviours that were of concern to children themselves”.

Key Findings

  • Children most frequently rated close family as the source they were most likely to go to get help if they were worried about their feelings or behaviour.
  • Almost nine in ten children chose their parents/siblings as one of their three most likely sources of help, with formal sources of support being picked much less frequently.
  • Over half (58%) of children indicated they had worries about their feelings and behaviour and had sought help from one or more sources.
  • There were some statistically significant differences in both the types of support obtained and the proportion of children who sought help based on their characteristics. For example, girls were significantly more likely to seek help, and boys to say they had no concerns.
  • Over 8% of children indicated that they had worries about their feelings or behaviour but had not sought help. Applying this proportion to population estimates for 10-17 year olds, we estimate that over 464,000 children of this age in Great Britain may have worries about their feelings and behaviour but have not sought help.
  • When asked to indicate on a scale of 0 to 10 how happy they were overall with the support they received (where 0 is not happy at all and 10 is very happy), 88% of children gave a score above the midpoint (i.e. between 6 and 10 out of 10) suggesting a generally positive experience.
  • Further research is required to understand what makes children feel both happy and unhappy with the support they receive, and how this can be translated into support services.

Recommendations

  • The findings highlight that parents and other family members are an important source of support for children and young people. Local Public Health officials must prioritise work with parents in their local area to communicate key messages about how to support children’s mental health.
  • The majority of parents and carers prefer to seek help from their GP when they have a concern about their child’s mental health. CCGs and GP surgeries should consult with parents and with children and young people to identify the strengths and weaknesses of GP support on offer in their area and respond accordingly.
  • More mental health support needs to be made available in local communities. We recommend that open access community services are made available to ensure that all young people can have timely access to low level mental health support.
  • Local partners should work together, across the local authority, CCG and with wider organisations to ensure that youth workers, sports coaches, uniformed group leaders, faith and community leaders are all properly trained in mental health first aid for children and young people.
  • It is important that children in need of support are identified in an un-stigmatising and unobtrusive way. We recommend national measurement of children’s subjective wellbeing should be introduced.

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