Children’s Mental Health Week…

As I write this reflection, I am aware that in every school in the UK, in every class, on average of statistics, there will be around three children and adolescents with a mental health condition.

Teachers are now being asked to play the role of a primary care giver and be a significant attachment figure in the lives of those children. Often with little or no mental health training- all, whilst needing to facilitate education to large classes, this is an ongoing challenge for them.

In 2016, 36% of schools in England provided base support for children and their emotional and mental wellbeing.

By 2019, this had doubled to 66%…I believe early intervention is key.

There is a lack of capacity in specialist services – schools have to use up scant resources for urgent needs, that is not often provided for in their budgets.

These teachers are on the front line, every working day… doing their best.

So, where does the responsibility for our young people’s overall health lie?

I believe strongly that it should lie with the parent or primary care giver.  It feels to me that we are becoming a nation of nationalised childcare and there must be a shift back towards or should I say forwards- to place responsibilities of childcare back to where it should be.

I don’t feel confident that in any political forum, there is enough of an appetite for change or that anyone is really prepared to look further down the line to what is happening in our society.

Kicking a can down the road seems the view taken by those very people who could start to work towards change. I don’t want to sound political, but what I am stating is not just my personal view, it is the result of my experience over the last 30 years of working with children, and in particular, the last 15 when I have been working more in the vulnerable sector of childcare.

Life throws its challenges throughout our lives, even the most secure-based families face hurdles and barriers, shocks and disruptions along the walk of life. But the challenges facing our more vulnerable families seem to be escalating and spiraling out of control.  More and more landing in poverty traps. Homelessness figures have risen sharply; in some counties it is up by 66% trapped in inadequate housing; often whole families, living in one or two rooms.

Those of us who are working to support those families and their children have a rising awareness for the plight of these people who are literally destitute. Losing the “family home” is a traumatic experience for all members of the family unit and the children are often severely affected with this negative change in their life.

Poor sanitary and hygiene conditions are falling way below what would be socially accepted as the norm… is it a surprise then, that the figures for domestic abuse, emotional and physical neglect have risen hugely too?

These children are at best, living in chaotic unsafe environments in which they are often exposed to dangers right outside their doors: knife crime, gang and drug related crime… Is it any wonder that the most venerable children in our communities and society are affected?

Fear, loneliness, shame and a sense of isolation are all feelings these children are encountering. This has such a negative effect on the developing foundations of their confidence, self-esteem and belief as a result of living in such dire and wholly inappropriate environments.

At The Seeds of Change we are fortunate to be able to work with small groups of children and individuals and our approach of demonstrating positive parenting throughout the child’s time with us works.

What is Positive Parenting?  

  • Creating a safe physical and emotional environment in which a child can explore and learn.
  • Providing a warm and comfortable place to be.
  • Providing basic, but healthy food regularly.
  • Creating and maintaining daily structures and routine.
  • Modelling positive adult relationships in front of the children and away from them.
  • Create safe boundaries that are consistent and set consequences for when they are challenges.
  • Encourage communication between the family ‘group’. Share tasks, share food and conversation.
  • Be informed of where the child is and who they are with

So – accountability.

As Coaches working to facilitate change, even though we cannot affect dramatic change, every small step of awareness and support a child has or will enable him/her to begin to make different choices, about how they react to those daily challenges and link those frustrated feelings with their often-negative behaviours which inevitably lead into further trouble down the line.

Oh, how I wish we could work with parents and care givers more. We could affect real change, not today, not tomorrow even but in the end, that pendulum has to swing…


Katherine Dillon is a Director and Founder of The Seeds of Change.  To find out more about her story, click here

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