Childhood mental illness must be taken seriously

Childhood mental illness must be taken seriously
Highlights

Childhood mental illness should be taken as seriously as physical ailments and charities must harness smartphone technology to make education and support programmes accessible to all, a new study on mental health and wellbeing of children released today has recommended.

Doha: Childhood mental illness should be taken as seriously as physical ailments and charities must harness smartphone technology to make education and support programmes accessible to all, a new study on mental health and wellbeing of children released today has recommended.

The report "Healthy Young Minds: Transforming the Mental Health of Children" which was released on the first day of the second World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) here said that one in 10 young people under 18 has a diagnosable mental illness worldwide.

"One in 10 young people under 18 have a diagnosable mental illness such as depression, anxiety and conduct disorder – amounting to 220 million worldwide. "Of these, more than half will go on to develop mental illness in adult life and have a three times higher risk of being involved in crime, drug abuse or suicide. Less than a quarter of mentally ill children are getting specialist help for their problems and this lack of intervention costs societies dearly," the study said.

The recommendations of an inquiry led by Professor Richard Layard, an expert on happiness at the London School of Economics said that the wellbeing of children must become a major priority for every nation and work must start within communities, healthcare systems and schools to address the burden of poor mental health in childhood.

"Childhood mental illness should be taken as seriously as physical illness and charities must harness smartphone technology to make education and support programs accessible to all," the report recommended. The report said that the investment required to implement the recommendations could revolutionise the lives of children, whilst also producing major economic benefits to society while focusing on 10 specific evidence-based action points that can be carried out in every country.

"There should be a major international programme to develop free smartphone-based approaches to all the recommendations. A major international charity should be asked to support this," one of the recommendations said. Among the others are life-skills curriculum in schools, making wellbeing of pupils an "explicit" objective of every school, local communities having a local child wellbeing strategy, measurement of pupil wellbeing in schools on a regular basis and others.

"We recognise the financial pressure on health systems, but we firmly believe that modern smartphones and computer technology have made it possible to deliver effective help at low cost. This is an opportunity not to be missed," said Layard, Wellbeing Programme Director at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

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