Headlines: April 28th, 2008

A poll published by The Children’s Society, as part of its Good Childhood Inquiry, reveals mounting concern about children’s mental health and well being. The Society was seeking evidence on the general health of children, but a large number of responses highlighted children’s mental health and well being, which is an issue barely acknowledged by past generations.

The poll showed that only one in ten respondents felt children nowadays are happier. Adults’ concerns echo what children themselves have told the Inquiry. In a survey of 8,000 14-16 year olds, carried out by the Society, 27 per cent of young people agreed with the statement ‘I often feel depressed’. In a separate online vote, conducted by CBBC Newsround for the inquiry, 78 per cent of those who voted said they felt fine, good or really good about their health. However a worrying 22% felt bad or really bad. Many also said they felt under pressure to look good, with seven out of ten admitting they dieted some or all of the time.

Children identified some of the causes of stress including the influence of peers, bullying, family expectations, and pressures at school. Adults believe the major causes of stress are family breakdown and conflict, and peer pressure. Professor Stephen Scott, Institute of Psychiatry and an inquiry panel member said: “Many respondents to the inquiry shared the belief that well being depends on good relationships, especially within the family; on a sense of purpose and on freedom.

Many of the submissions expressed concern about the impact that poverty and social disadvantage has on mental health and wellbeing. A conference on Creating Opportunities, Building Futures will be held in London today. It will draw on the momentum of children and young people moving centre stage on the Government’s agenda, including the ending of child poverty.

An inquiry into child poverty in Scotland has been launched with a call for evidence by the Local Government and Communities Committee. With an estimated 90,000 children living in severe and persistent poverty in Scotland, the Committee inquiry will focus on identifying solutions and scrutinising child poverty targets.