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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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1 Historical perspectives of children’s mental health

The recognition that children may be vulnerable to developing diagnosable mental health conditions has started to emerge over the last hundred years or so. This is partly because, until modern times, children were regarded as little more than ‘adults in waiting’ and childhood was not regarded as a distinct life stage as it is today. There was a different understanding about how children develop and a lack of awareness that children think differently to adults. Another reason why it was thought that children could not be regarded as being mentally unwell is because behavioural problems were viewed as being caused by children being ‘bad’ rather than ‘mad’ (Rey et al., 2015). Children who did not conform to the expected norms of behaviour were often marginalised from society, punished harshly and labelled in pejorative ways.

The next section includes a timeline of some of the key events relating to societal views and developments in relation to children’s mental health. The sources used for this timeline include historical accounts from the field of child psychiatry as well as recently written reflections on the history of children’s mental health.