Headlines: November 21st, 2007

Local councils, schools and even members of the public should share the responsibility for promoting positive mental health among children and young people with health professionals, according to a new guide from the Children’s Services Network at the Local Government Information Unit. The guide stresses the importance of raising public awareness of the issues.

The guide, ‘Fundamental Health’, is aimed at the whole range of people working with or for children, particularly those who do not have specialist training in children’s psychological well-being and mental health. It recommends specifically that councils should “assess the impact of decision making on children’s mental health locally – including all council decisions that affect children’s experience”.

Stressing the importance of greater awareness of children’s mental health issues, it says there is sometimes a lack of understanding because the terminology used can be confusing. “Whatever term we use, mental health is not just a matter for health professionals,” it says. “Mental health is a public health issue in the same way that physical health matters to all of society.

The authors believe the guide will be useful for local authorities, health authorities, voluntary sector organisations and others working in partnership to promote good mental health for children and young people.

The guide acknowledges that the Every Child Matters programme presents opportunities to put the issue of children’s mental health at centre stage. The government, it says, has increased funding but there are still fundamental policy challenges that need to be addressed, including improving intervention at the earliest point, ensuring parents have the confidence to ask for help and the promotion of multi-level, multi-agency approaches to mental health issues.