Physical and Mental health in children and young people: two sides of the same coin
Child health has been marked by three chapters thus far in human society, and this is true in most countries. The first began in the 19th and early 20th century, with the recognition that children were different and not just small versions of adults, with particular health needs, and was marked by the introduction of specialists, children’s hospitals and texts in most high income countries of the time. From this platform, a second chapter began after the 2nd world war, spurred on from the destruction and inequalities which had emerged following two world wars, with formal and organized recognition of human rights. This second chapter was marked by the importance of preventative medicine – vaccination, education, welfare, maternal health, in particular in the under 5s. And didn’t they do well? Recent data has shown that death rates have dropped dramatically in the last 50 years.
We now stand firmly in a third chapter. A modern era of child health where the epidemiology, demands and health burdens lie within those with long standing illnesses which children 50 years ago wouldn’t have survived from. These new health problems carry a high burden for mental health for children and young people. We now live in era where you are more likely to die at 17 than 5, where a child, in high income countries, is more likely to develop an eating disorder than meningitis. Yet at so many levels, young people, families, health care systems and policy makers seem so unprepared and unready to identify, cope and manage mental health disorders. Mental health is treated and funded differently to physical health, and stigma is still great. It is to the challenges and needs that this new third chapter in child health present, in particular around mental health, that this ebook turns.Children and young people are, and always will be, the future. They are the innovators, the teachers, the leaders, and if you prefer, the tax-payers of the future. Hopefully on their journey, they will also have fun, free to learn, play, with secure, cared for lives within a society that considers their problems and responds to them. We neglect them and their wellbeing to our peril. We hope that the excellent perspectives in this ebook will provide some evidence, inspiration and directions for us as we grapple with our future and so many children and young people struggle with their mental health.
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