Mental health issues are increasingly common among children and young people—suicide is now the leading cause of death for both males and females aged five to 19 years old, and one in eight people among this age group is currently living with a mental health condition.
Children and young people in vulnerable groups are even more at risk, including LGBTQ+ people, low income households, children in care, and those with parental mental health issues, special educational needs, on child protection plans, or in the criminal justice system.
Underinvestment in mental health is a longstanding concern. This has been amplified by the pandemic due to the extra stress caused by prolonged school closures, social isolation, adverse social and environmental circumstances, and a lack of access to usual support services.
RCPCH’s Assistant Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Dr Karen Street, says: “Our key message is that our patients’ mental health is our business. There is a joint responsibility to provide necessary services across the children's workforce.
“In the wake of COVID-19, many children and young people will have greater mental health support needs. As services begin to recover, the time is ripe to connect across the entire child health workforce and local, regional, and national boundaries. Together, we can work to develop improved and integrated mental health services.”
In its statement, the College includes a number of recommendations, including:
- All paediatric teams should have a nominated lead for mental health.
- Paediatric training must include promotion of wellbeing in children and young people and management of common mental health issues.
- Paediatricians with higher exposure to issues need more extensive training and support.
- Paediatricians should not be expected to work in isolation when managing severe cases of mental illness.
- Use of mental health screening tools in higher risk people should be considered.
The College will also continue to support mental health through its activities, including:
- Having an Assistant Officer for Mental Health on its Health Improvement Committee.
- Working with NHSE and HEE to implement of the NHSE Long Term Plan.
- Developing training through its Child Mental Health Specialty Advisory Committee.
- Developing the Progress curriculum for all paediatric trainees to include mental health.
- Partnering with MindEd to produce a paediatric ‘learning path’.
Read the College’s full position statement on the role of paediatricians in mental health.