CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH
By Andy Maciver, Director, Message Matters
Two years ago Standard Life Aberdeen, a client of ours at Message Matters, asked me to attend a meeting with its charity of the year. The company wanted to help its charity partner with some communications around its activities at Children’s Mental Health Week, and it wanted to use some of the time it pays Message Matters for to help the charity.
That charity was Place2Be.
I immediately warmed to the charity and the people working for it. I have four young children and they will grow up in an era where attentiveness to mental health is much more normalised than it was when I was young.
Place2Be asked me to go along to one of its ‘Being is Believing’ events. I’m a relatively cynical person - perhaps my years in politics and media have sowed a scepticism about whether anything actually ever changes in this country.
But I was mesmerised by this event. This was a school in Edinburgh in an area of multiple deprivation with all the factors that come from it - family breakdown, drug abuse, educational failure, welfare dependency. And yet, here, Place2Be was making an obvious and tangible difference to children with real talent, but with underlying mental health issues cultivated by their circumstances.
I immediately offered to join Place2Be’s Scottish Advisory Group - in fact, I’m not sure I gave them much choice!
The latest NHS figures (for England, albeit) showed that over 10% of children aged 5-15 have a mental health issue of some sort. That means that we can expect over 150,000 children in Scotland to experience mental health difficulties. 150,000 children whose potential may go unfulfilled, or whose lives may go into a tailspin without an intervention.
As a country, we cannot let this pass. This is not about toughness vs. cuddliness or pandering to the snowflake generation. This is about a new era of awareness. Awareness of the costs of mental ill health. Personal costs. Social costs. Economic costs. And a collective need to tackle it.
And yet, I fear it has become one of those issues with many inputs and no outputs. Politicians talk, endlessly, about the issue, without really appearing to take a grip of it. Is it a health issue? Is it an education issue? When does it become a justice issue? Who should fix it? How should they fix it?
As with most politics, our leaders talk in terms of money rather than outcomes. Hundreds of millions to this, hundreds of millions to that. However money is not relevant without the right strategy to use the money. That has to be a strategy which encompasses all the things which can contribute to mental ill-health in children: social circumstances (tax and welfare policy); attainment (education policy); obesity and physical ill-health (health policy); role models and surroundings (justice and communities policy).
For all sorts of social and economic reasons, this is worth getting right.
My favourite politician is Robert Kennedy, a man who was dead before I was born. His most famous speech was given in Cape Town in 1966 on the subject of Apartheid, but in it was a section which makes me think of the reason I volunteer on the Place2Be advisory group.
Kennedy said that:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current.”
Every child who Place2Be helps, whether its work with them means that at 14 they are in school rather than in a young offenders’ institution, or that at 16 they have some qualifications rather than none, or that at 20 they are in a job rather than unemployed, or that at 22 they have a university degree rather than dropping out, or that at 40 they are able to guide their children in the right direction rather than themselves being lost; each of those children is a tiny ripple of hope. And all of those children combined, all of those tiny ripples of hope, from that 10% of children affected by mental health issues, build a current which carries them as people, and us as a country, to a happier, healthier and wealthier place.
By Andy Maciver, Director, Message Matters
DEMENTIA, CONSUMERS IN SCOTLAND, CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE'S MENTAL HEALTH AND WOMEN IN BUSINESS IN SCOTLAND
Research undertaken by WES at the end of last year for the Federation of Small Businesses found that women owned businesses already contribute a staggering £8.8bn into the Scottish economy every year. That’s more than some of the stated economic “growth sectors” according to the Scottish Government Growth Sector statistics.
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