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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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9 Mental health

Poor mental health is also a cause of concern in very young children. Understanding why there has been an increase in the number of children who have a diagnosable mental health difficulty, such as anxiety or depression, is a complex issue because there isn’t just one reason. Greater awareness and acceptance of the fact that children are just as prone to developing mental health conditions is needed when taking care of young children’s health.

A photograph of an upset child
Figure 8 An increasing number of children are being diagnosed with mental health conditions

Many families live in adverse conditions and, consequently, children can be negatively affected by the experiences of that adversity. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include domestic violence, bereavement, substance abuse and neglect. Children who go through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more likely to experience mental health difficulties. This is partly because of the negative impact on children’s emotional and social development, which can in turn reduce their sense of wellbeing and increase the risk of mental health conditions emerging. Children who are looked after (by the state) have often experienced disrupted childhoods and are especially predisposed to developing diagnosable mental health conditions.

Despite the alarming state of children’s mental health, there is a great deal that can be done to support children’s wellbeing which, in turn, can improve their mental health. These points will be returned to later in the course.