Eight young people are set to ‘take over’ this month’s board meeting at Public Health England (PHE), sharing their views and, no doubt, posing some challenging questions.
This is a great opportunity for us to hear from young people as part of this year’s Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day. We will be joining hundreds of organisations across the country who will be welcoming young people in to take part in their day to day business.
At PHE, the day will focus on children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing, and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to grow and expand our understanding of the issues and topics affecting young people in England.
We know that mental health problems in children and young people can have wide-ranging effects, including impacts on educational attainment and social relationships, as well as on life chances and physical health.
The Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report “Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays” tells us that 1 in 10 children and young people under the age of 16 has a diagnosable mental disorder and that 50% of mental illness in adult life (excluding dementia) starts before age 15, rising to 75% by age 18. Among younger children (5 to 10 years old), 10% of boys and 5% of girls have a mental health problem.
The best start in life
Ensuring every child has the best start in life is one of PHE’s seven priority areas. We know that 80% of brain cell development takes place by age three. Enabling children to achieve their full potential and be physically and emotionally healthy is an important foundation for a healthy, productive adulthood. We are also focusing on ensuring young people have the skills they need to make healthy decisions and be aware of risks to their health and wellbeing.
PHE is committed to this agenda and has worked closely with the Department of Health and NHS England taskforce on child mental health. A result of this taskforce was the publication of the Future in Mind report earlier this year, which sets out key proposals to transform the design and delivery of local services for children and young people with mental health needs, including:
- Placing emphasis on building resilience, promoting good health, prevention and early intervention;
- Simplifying structures and ensuring children and young people have easy access to the right support from the right service;
- Delivering a clear, joined-up approach, linking services to make care pathways easier for children and young people to navigate;
- Improving transparency and accountability across the whole system, to drive further improvements in outcomes; and
- Ensuring that professionals who work with children and young people are trained in child development and mental health, and understand what can be done to provide help and support for those who need it.
PHE is a member of the new National Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Oversight Board, will which work to help achieve the vision set out in this report.
A whole school approach
However, better access to quality services is only part of the solution. We are also focusing on building young people’s life skills and supporting them to be resilient in order to positively impact on behaviours that can carry health risks for young people early on.
PHE supports a whole school/college approach to emotional health and wellbeing, and we have issued professional guidance for health visitors and school nurses on Promoting emotional wellbeing and positive mental health of children and young people and Supporting the health and wellbeing of young carers as well as a framework for public health staff.
It is essential that the public health system works better to support children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing. The Future in Mind report states that the best mental healthcare and support must involve children, young people and those who care for them in making choices about what they regard as key priorities.
The Takeover Day is a great way to involve young people in our work and I look forward to hearing the views of the eight young people attending our board meeting this month.
As part of this year’s challenge I’m taking part in the Advice to Self campaign, which asks ‘What advice would you give your past self to inspire you to reach your full potential in life?’
Here’s one of my #AdvicetoSelf pictures; why not have a think about what yours would be?
You can follow our Takeover Challenge day on 25 November via our new Instagram account where we’ll be posting a photo diary of the day @PublicHealthEngland. Keep an eye on our Twitter account and Facebook page as we post about the day, and watch our for guest blogs from the young people themselves here. Hashtags to follow include #PHEtakeover #TakeoverChallenge and #AdvicetoSelf