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Gender-sensitive approaches to addressing children and young people’s emotional and mental health and wellbeing

Examples of promising practice

This document is for decision-makers, service providers and practitioners whose work impacts on children and young people's emotional and mental health and wellbeing. It features practice that explicitly addresses gender as a relevant factor in such work. In sharing these examples, NCB aims to help further thinking and practice in this area.

Children and young people's mental health is one of the most challenging health issues of our times. It is estimated that half of all mental health problems emerge before the age of 14, with three quarters having appeared by the age of 24 (Kessler and others 2005). The serious consequences of emotional and behavioural problems for children and young people’s life outcomes in many domains, and even their life expectancy, are well-documented (Goodman and others 2011; Richards and others 2009). The use of effective, evidence-based interventions with children, young people and families can help to avert such consequences and save public money (Khan 2016).

In 2014, the Department of Health and NHS England established a taskforce to examine how to improve child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing, as part of a government commitment to achieve better access to mental health care for people of all ages by 2020 (DH 2014). The taskforce published its report, Future in Mind (DH and NHSE 2015), making clear proposals for wholesystem change. Major transformation programmes for both child and adult mental health services are now underway.

Mental health is a gendered issue, with research identifying gender differences in:
• the general picture of children and young people’s emotional and mental health
• the prevalence of specific difficulties and issues among children and young people
• children and young people’s coping strategies and help-seeking behaviours
• responses to children and young people’s emotional and mental health needs from parents and carers, schools, and public services
• service responses to the needs of some particular groups of children and young people.

Awareness and media coverage of these gender dimensions is growing, particularly in terms of girls' wellbeing and self-esteem; young male suicide; and the experiences of trans and gender variant children and young people. However, 'gender blindness' can inhibit understanding of such issues and the potential of policy making and service design and delivery to address them.

In our role as Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partner, NCB works to help improve child health outcomes and reduce child health inequalities. To support the children’s mental health transformation agenda outlined in Future in Mind, NCB is bringing together research evidence, young people’s voices and examples of promising practice relating to gender dimensions in children and young people’s mental health.

Following the publication of our evidence review on this topic, we sought examples of gendersensitive approaches to share with the health system and voluntary and community sector. A call for examples was publicised via NCB's networks and those of other Strategic Partner organisations, which include the Men's Health Forum, National LGB&T Partnership and Women's Health and Equality Consortium. This document presents case studies based on examples submitted; it does not represent the full range of existing practice, and examples have not been evaluated by NCB. These examples are shared with the aim of inspiring new thinking and encouraging conversations about gender-sensitive approaches.