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Tagged In:  Mental Health

A leading health expert has called on the government to offer parenting lessons to help protect children's emotional wellbeing.




Raising children has never been a walk in the park. But in today's fast-moving, competitive and media-driven world, looking after the mental health of our young people has become a greater challenge than ever. Rising rates of conditions such as anxiety, anorexia and obesity have made the role of the CAMHS practitioner even more important. Prevention is therefore a key issue, with experts calling for parents and schools to be given much better advice and support.

Better Mental Health for All, a recent report by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) and the Mental Health Foundation, emphasises the vital role that good parenting can play in a child's emotional wellbeing. "Supporting parenting is key and the first 1001 days of a child's life are particularly important," said lead author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown. After all, over three-quarters of mental health problems emerge in childhood and adolescence.

The FPH's outgoing president, Professor John Ashton, has called for more parental support, via existing networks such as health visitors and schools, as well as through social media and 24-hour helplines. "Although we cannot say yet exactly how much of the burden of mental illness could be prevented, we know prevention is possible," he commented.

The figures speak for themselves. According to the FPH, half of all mental disorders emerge before the age of 14 and three quarters before the age of 25. Up to 25% of children show signs of mental health problems and 10% have a clinically diagnosed condition.

Top tips


So, what are the key things that parents need to do to help their children stay healthy in mind as well as body? In a recent interview with the BBC, leading educational psychologist Zubeida Dasgupta offered her five top tips for parenting to promote mental wellbeing in children.

It's not just researchers, psychiatrists and other professionals such as mental health nurses and CAMHS practitioners who are calling for more understanding of the role parenting plays in mental wellbeing. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge recently guest edited a Young Minds Matter feature for the Huffington Post, designed to 'lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health'. "We hope to encourage George and Charlotte to speak about their feelings, " she wrote in her introductory blog post, "and to give them the tools and sensitivity to be supportive peers to their friends as they get older."

A 2015 study by University College London ranked care and responsiveness from parents as the two most important factors in providing children with the best chance of avoiding mental health problems in adulthood. Researchers also found that controlling parenting had a negative impact on their children's mental health.

A recent survey by YouGov for mental health charity MQ showed that two thirds of parents worry that mental health issues will have a long-term effect on their children's lives. The message is clear: giving them access to the right guidance has never been more important.

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