Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mental Health Focus

The Guardian has today published several articles focusing on mental health. "As a society" the introduction says, "we should we doing all we can to avoid and alleviate preventable suffering; as an economy, investment in our mental capital guarantees increased returns." One article, Vital first steps, considers the importance of the early years in a child's life in relation to long-term mental health.

It is now well accepted that the emotional attachments children form during the early years are a crucial part in laying down the foundations for their future mental health. "Babies who receive sensitive, emotionally responsive care during their first years are more likely to become securely attached. Babies receiving insensitive, inconsistent or unresponsive care are likely to become insecurely attached." says Jane Barlow, professor of public health in the early years at Warwick University. (This is an issue in determining care for very young children of separated parents)

Despite some success of the Sure Start programme which attempts to bring together child health and family services, early education and childcare, and employment support to tackle the consequences of poor attachments it is extremely difficult to get funding for infant mental health services, even though they are hugely beneficial for adult mental health trusts because they will not be picking up the pieces later on.

Another article Off the scale: Measuring wellbeing looks at a survey of wellbeing across Europe that found countries which have traditionally invested more in their social infrastructure have the highest levels of overall wellbeing. Levels of trust and belonging are "strikingly" low among young people in the UK, the report says. One in ten children between five and 16 has clinically significant mental health difficulties.

Relating to the mental health of children and parental separation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation today also published a study Ending child poverty in a changing economy by Donald Hirsch which suggests that, under existing policies, about 1.1 million fewer children will be in poverty by 2010 than in 1998 when the target was set. This will still be 600,000 short of the government target of halving child poverty by the and it will make it more difficult to meet the more ambitious goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020. Without any new policies to help low-income families the report says , child poverty could rise again to 3.1 million by 2020.


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