Mental Health Today editor Dan Parton (03/07/2012) looks at how to improve stigma against children with mental health issues:
One in 10 children and young people are said to suffer from a mental health problem, but many still face stigma over it and this can have a seriously detrimental effect on their lives -and it needs to be addressed through education.
Anti-mental health stigma campaign Time for Change's latest survey found that, as a result of the discrimination they face because of their mental health problems, 27% of under 25s have given up on their life's ambitions [full story here]. This is a tragedy, and shows how stigma can affect a person and leave potential unrealised. But there is no reason why someone who has experienced/is experiencing mental health problems cannot go on to do whatever they want to do. People as diverse as Stephen Fry and Conservative MP Charles Walker demonstrate this. Time to Change's survey also highlighted the root of the stigma that young people face; 70% from friends, 35% from siblings and 57% from parents.
It is all too easy to put mental health issues in children and young people down to things like being "a sulky teen" and to "get over it" and not give them the attention they deserve. But to do this could lead a person to have a lifetime of mental health problems; NHS statistics say that half of adults with long-term mental health problems such as depression and anxiety will have experienced their first symptoms before the age of 14. There is a world of difference between, for instance, a sulk and depression and parents, teachers and, perhaps most importantly, other young people need to be aware of what the signs are that a young person is struggling with their mental health. Allied to this, children, young people and adults need more education so that there is greater awareness that mental health problems are treatable, people can recover and that, as mentioned previously, it doesn't stop a person from achieving whatever they want to in life.
Time to Change is helping to address this in various ways and many other charities and social care organisations also have anti-stigma initiatives underway and this all helps. But perhaps it is time for more mental health education in schools to address this stigma. Dedicated classes on what mental health problems are, how they can be treated, and addressing myths about it could have a real impact on stigma among young people. Not only in addressing it, but also encouraging young people who may have a mental health problem to seek help. While the number of children receiving treatment for mental health issues is at an all-time high with more than 120,000 5 to 16-year-olds diagnosed with a clinical mental health problem in the UK, according to Government figures, there are still many more who are struggling on their own with their problems because of the stigma that they face. More education could only help.