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

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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

Session 1: Setting the scene by looking at the past


In the first session of this course, you will look at the history of children’s mental health. Until the middle of the twentieth century, following the Second World War and the formation of government welfare services, children’s mental health was not recognised as the significant issue it is today. However, some children will have experienced mental health problems, even if these were left undiagnosed, and you will be examining some of the reasons why this might have happened.

You will look at a news account about children’s mental health and consider why there are currently reported increases in the numbers of cases of children with compromised mental health, and you will be encouraged to identify some of the reasons why this might or might not be the case. You will also be introduced to some of the ‘language’ associated with children and their mental health. This will hopefully make the content in later sessions more familiar to you. And finally, you will be encouraged to think about the resources within the child, the family, their community and wider society that can help children to develop ensuring good overall mental health.

It is important to highlight that contemporary Western views about children and mental health are not going to be held globally; some cultures as well as religions hold beliefs that mean they do not recognise mental health issues as an illness. Instead, the causes of behaviours in children that are outside the norm are sometimes attributed to other explanatory models, a contentious example being that a child is possessed by evil spirits.

Now listen to the following audio in which Liz Middleton, one of the course authors, introduces the session.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 1
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Transcript: Audio 1

To understand what's happening in the present, it's often helpful to look at the past. Childhood in the past is often viewed as being idyllic and carefree, however that's not really a true representation of how childhood was experienced.
Charles Dickens highlighted the living conditions of poor children in his novels such as Oliver Twist, which was written about 160 years ago. The story of The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley highlights the terror and abuse that young children experienced as chimney sweeps. Thankfully, it's no longer acceptable for small boys to be sent up chimneys to clean them.
The events during the Second World War had a profound impact on children, many were separated from their families. In England, children as young as three years of age were evacuated from the cities to the safety of the countryside where the risks of bombs were less.
This week's content gives some examples of how children's mental health were affected by events in the past. You'll also gain an overview of contemporary mental health issues in very young children. Very importantly, the content will explore the ways that children's mental health and wellbeing can be supported within the family, the community, and the society. And we'll have a look at some of the terms that are used in relation to children's mental health.
There is a quiz for you to do. This won't contribute to the badge for the course this week. But it's a great opportunity for you to practise, ready for the quizzes in week 4 and 8, which will contribute to successful completion and your final badge. We really do hope that you enjoy this first week of the course.
End transcript: Audio 1
Audio 1
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By the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • describe an overview of the history of children and mental health
  • outline the reasons why there is an increase in awareness of children’s mental health
  • identify selected factors that can impact children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.


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