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04 February 2021

Campaign underway to 'change the story' around children's mental health

The Maudsley Charity with King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), is launching a major drive to ‘change the story’ around the mental health of children and young people.

Maudsley Charity Change The Story campaign image reading 'on average 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental illness'

The Maudsley Charity is raising funds for a ground-breaking centre in south London where clinicians and researchers will work together to transform our understanding and treatment of young people’s mental health – locally, across the UK and internationally.

The Change the Story campaign launch marks the start of Children’s Mental Health Week.

It comes amidst mounting concern about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people unable to attend school and as referrals to mental health services rise. Urgent referrals to the SLaM eating disorder services, for example, have increased five-fold during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, one in nine children aged 5-15 had at least one mental health problem that has a significant experience on their everyday life. Early research suggests this figure will have deteriorated during the last ten months.

Half of adult mental health problems begin by the age of 14.

With support from philanthropists and the public we will improve mental health outcomes for an entire generation – and for generations to come. We will give children the opportunity to rewrite their own stories – stories with brighter beginnings and happier endings. Our research will help us understand more than ever before what it means to be a child today and the pressures that young people are under.

Rebecca Gray, Maudsley Charity Chief Executive

Work is already underway on the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People which will house modern inpatient, outpatient and crisis mental health care facilities for children and young people – as well as cutting-edge research facilities. It will bring researchers, clinicians and local and specialist services together under one roof.

This will allow the centre to continue the ground-breaking innovation in research and treatment which means SLaM clinicians can care for young people with some of the most complex and challenging mental health problems in the country. With SLaM clinicians and researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) working side by side, research breakthroughs should be translated into new treatments and interventions more swiftly.

We are at a critical moment where major scientific developments are close to transforming our understanding of children’s mental health problems. Lasting improvements to children's mental health disorders are within reach.

Professor Emily Simonoff, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at IoPPN

She added, “New collaborations between clinicians and researchers will accelerate our ambition to more effectively identify, prevent and treat mental health disorders for children and young people. That close working will mean research and innovation can be turned into new treatments and interventions more quickly.”

The Centre will also support extensive schools-based programmes that reflect the partners’ approach of early intervention – something research has shown boosts the effectiveness of treatment.

Planned research in the new Centre will investigate the causes of child mental health problems from infancy through adolescence and will use these insights to develop new interventions, often preventing their onset and any complications. This will include a focus on autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression and trauma, eating disorders and OCD.

We have all seen the media coverage around the impact of the pandemic on the emotional wellbeing and psychological development of a generation of children. Once the Pears Maudsley Centre opens, our specialists will work with parents, educators and young people themselves to develop new ways of responding to mental health problems and addressing them.

Dr Bruce Clark, Clinical Director for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at SLaM

Children and young people who currently use NHS mental health services and their parents have been involved in the design of the new building. It has been sensitively designed to meet their different needs – including those with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Many of the clinical care models developed by SLaM and the IoPPN are used around the globe. The Trust provides more than 20 specialist services to help with the issues experienced by children and young people across the UK, including support for mothers and babies, child trauma, self-harm, OCD, autism, ADHD and behavioural problems, eating disorders, suicide, anxiety and depression. The IoPPN team is the largest child and adolescent mental health research group in Europe.

Find out more about the Change the Story campaign and the Pears Maudsley Centre.

In this story

Emily Simonoff

Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry