We must act now to prevent children’s mental ill-heath exploding

We have been thinking a lot about PTSD since 14th June 2017. Some experts believe that environmental factors can come into play with the onset of mental illness. In the case of the residents of Grenfell Tower in West London, and the surrounding community, their environment experienced such massive trauma that the whole community may be affected for generations to come.

On that fateful morning, I remember one of my son’s classmates telling me – while they were playing – about what had just unfolded after they saw it on the news. They said they knew how the fire had started: a resident’s fridge had exploded starting the fire and lots of people had died. The way that our children perceive the turbulent world around them raises many questions. The acute trauma experienced by the children of the community surrounding Grenfell brings the terrifying consequences of those questions into sharp focus. Some days or weeks later, experts highlighted the trauma being noticed by teachers in the area, as nursery children were re-enacting the fire in their play time. This is one of the indicators of PTSD as noted on NHS resources.

One in ten children (five to 16 years old) have a clinically diagnosable mental disorder (Children’s Society 2008). I spoke to a lady recently whose son experiences severe mental ill health. Once – prior to any symptoms being noticed – when his behaviour was highlighted by his primary school head teacher, her query as to whether his behaviour may be due to his highly intelligent character being bored, was met with disbelief. This was more than a decade ago. The issues faced by our children now have been festering since then or maybe even before.

Of all the children who experience difficulties, 70% do not receive sufficient intervention at an early enough age (Children’s Society 2008). Schools represent the front line of a proactive approach to mental health. All teachers need to be given the training to ask themselves whether bad behaviour should be called just that or whether the underlying issues may run far deeper.

At Unity MHS, we have developed a program whereby all teachers – primary and secondary – can be trained to recognise what may be the signs of early mental distress. Whilst bringing activities to build resilience in children through fun classroom activities, all this knowledge can also be shared with parents. Home is another sector of that proactive front line.

If any issues are raised between this parent/teacher partnership, there will be a periodic professional presence at the school acting as the link to timely outside assistance. This will mean that any possible issue can be remedied without causing undue disturbance to the child’s life and education. We are in talks to establish this program at several schools. Nationwide, 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24 (*). Such proactivity could prevent unchecked “bad” behaviour and upset exploding into an epidemic in the next decade.

A recent report found that every pound invested in such well-being programs for children would save the NHS £84. Just imagine what a difference that could make nationwide.

(*) Reference: 2Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. (2005). Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593.

About the Author

Tony Weekes grew up in East London, the son of a consultant surgeon and a nurse. After leaving university with a degree in Sociology and Politics, he worked his way up to office management level. The combination of his upbringing, life and work experience helps him see the good in every situation with a problem-solving mentality. He has witnessed the pain and suffering which mental ill health has caused several of his extended family members. In recent years, Tony has devoted all his energy, enthusiasm and determination into generating solutions for the problems they – and millions of others – face.

What is Unity?

Tony Weekes has built and coordinated the Unity Team. Unity is his vision of how the stigma of the UK’s mental health problems can be dismantled; how effective ongoing treatment can be made accessible; and how socio-economic empowerment for sufferers can be provided as the result. Tony has built this caring community – not from the perspective of a professional in the field of mental health – but from first-hand experience of trying to ease the suffering of loved ones. He has tried, sometimes succeeding, other times failing, to surmount the problems caused by the current care system’s serious lack of funding and the resulting lack of cohesion. Unity is a not-for-profit seeking to revolutionise mental health care in the United Kingdom through education, recognition and intervention. The NHS is a World leader, Unity will also make mental health care here World renowned.

Read about Unity’s mission to support Grenfell Families:



Title: In My Right Mind

Author: Tony Weekes

Publisher: Filament Publishing

Publication date: 13/09/17

Availability: Paperback, eBook, International distribution

Category: Self-Help, Education, Family, Health

ISBN: 978-1-912256-29-7

Price: £12.99

Website: https://www.unity-mhs.org/




Helen Lewis

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