Beyond Adversity: Addressing the mental health needs of young people who face complexity and adversity in their lives
1 in 3 adult mental health conditions relate directly to adverse childhood experiences. It is, therefore, vital that we understand the impact that adversity, complexity and trauma can have on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. However, many children, for example, who are neglected, witness domestic violence or face prejudice, still do not have their mental health needs identified.
Sometimes services are too focused on what they see as challenging or risky behaviour. This can stigmatise or criminalise normal responses to childhood adversity and trauma. Responses like these result in the unnecessary escalation of problems and have a profound impact on their social and emotional and development, as well as life outcomes and mental health in adulthood.
Worryingly, we know that experiencing adversity, complexity and trauma in childhood or adolescence increases the risk of mental and physical ill health, and that those young people affected may die earlier than their peers.
Spurred on by additional Government investment, the publication of Future in Mind, and the NHS’ Five Year Forward View on Mental Health, children and young people’s mental health services are going through a period of significant change.
This is a welcome direction of travel ‑ with children’s mental health being prioritised by local areas and transformed through a coordinated local plan. We hope that this will create, on the ground, the positive ambition for meeting children’s mental health needs that was agreed nationally.
However, as the co-chair of the work on Vulnerable Groups and Inequalities for Future in Mind, I remain concerned that progress on transforming care and support for children who are vulnerable and face adversity and complexity is lacking.
We cannot afford for these children to be left behind, creating a two-tier system - one for those whose needs are easier to identify and address, and another for those who seem to be too complex and socially determined.
Furthermore, we must take greater steps to understand the cumulative impact of prejudice on experiences of childhood adversity, and how this is exacerbated by mental health services (for example, through implicit racism) and by the culture in which the child is living (for example, communities where seeking support for mental health is heavily stigmatised).This new report by YoungMinds calls for urgent action by Government, the NHS and local areas to ensure that all of children’s mental health needs and wellbeing are addressed in the local transformation of services.