There is a toe-curling old English saying – often associated with Victorian patriarchs, but in fact originating from the 15th century – that children should be seen and not heard. It occurred to me, writing this during Children’s Mental Health Week that our own age is not content to merely unhear children, but wants to make them vanish too.
- Teenage suicide rate rises by a third
- Children's mental health in crisis
- 60% of children referred for mental health issues go untreated
Two reports out this week paint a depressing picture of the mental health of our children. The National Audit Office’s Progress in Improving Mental Health Services in England portrayed a service rich in good intentions, but struggling to deliver on them. It identified 1.2 million people waiting for help from community-based health services, citing children as a group particularly prone to ‘poor experiences’.
For a picture of the alarming rise in children with mental health needs, the Department of Education’s State of the Nation report on children’s wellbeing gives you the numbers. Most alarmingly in older teenagers – where rates of probable disorders have gone from 10% of 17-19 year olds five years ago to 26% now, but most heart breaking in 7-10 year-olds where rates stand at 15.2%.
And it’s a societal problem, pick any demographic you like since the pandemic, and there will be a story of a suffering child. Too sick to go to school without CAMHS assistance, but waiting a year or more to actually get any treatment. Out of sight, out of mind.
My preferred proverb on children comes from Nelson Mandela. ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ A generation which sacrificed some of their formative years to keep its elders safe during lockdown needs all of us to help them now.