The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. When we think of loneliness we often think of isolated older people, which is of course a very concerning issue.
Loneliness can, however, affect anyone at any age. In fact, people aged 16-24 are more likely to say they are lonely than any other adult age group. Children and new parents of young children also experience loneliness, so it is important to take this issue seriously when we are thinking about promoting wellbeing and preventing mental ill health.
In The Big Ask, children talked about the vital importance of their physical and mental health to their lives today and in building a successful future. That’s why children’s health is a key pillar of my work as Children’s Commissioner and why I have called for more support for children’s mental health, in school, online and in the community. In The Big Ask survey I was pleased to see that 80% of children said they were happy or okay, but children also said that mental health was their biggest worry. This is particularly true after the impact of the pandemic, so it is vital that we as adults come together to do everything that we can to promote children’s wellbeing.
Today, NHS England announced that the roll out of Mental Health Support Teams in schools is running ahead of schedule. This is fantastic news, as it is something I have been pushing for. I am also pleased that the Government is consulting on a new 10-year plan to improve the nation’s mental health. I will be bringing children’s voices to the heart of this plan, working in partnership with children and Government to co-design new ways of supporting children to have good wellbeing and access help when they need it.
Crucial to this work will be a preventive approach, and I am also currently running an Independent Family Review, which is exploring family life today and what more can be done to support families of all kinds. Strong and trusting relationships are vital to all children, no matter what kind of family they are growing up in. I will have a particular focus on children in care and those whose families are under pressure, as The Big Ask showed that these children are on average less happy with their family life than other children. I want to bring everyone together to consider how we can support all families to flourish, as strong relationships are a fundamental pillar for wellbeing.