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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2018

12 - Mental health of children and young people



This chapter outlines a developmental orientation to understanding the mental health of children and young people. It examines the implications for mental health in children and young people in relation to the environment, nature and nurture, and brain development in the context of vulnerability or risk, and resilience or protection. The chapter explores mental health promotion for young people, drawing from two real stories about bullying and altered eating patterns, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which include experiences of depression, anxiety and psychosis. Emphasis is given to prevention, promotion and early intervention for mental illness, including social media and e-mental health interventions for young people in relation to non-suicidal self-injury or suicide crisis, and popular public health initiatives to reduce suicide, such as R U OK? Day, headspace and other online services.

Respect for young people

Health professionals providing mental health care to children and young people should do so in a way that conveys respect and genuine concern. For children and young people, the first occurrence of a mental illness is likely to be a very confusing and perhaps a frightening experience. An important priority is for health care professionals to develop a strong initial therapeutic rapport with the young people they are helping. Young people are unsure of what to anticipate in mental health care, especially if it is their first appointment, or their first experience of a mental illness (Watson, Rickwood & Vanags, 2013; Wilson, Cruickshank & Lea, 2012). Health professionals can do a great deal to allay the confusion, anxiety and apprehension that may accompany a first experience of gaining mental health care, simply by creating a respectful and trusting relationship from the outset (Coughlan et al., 2011; Wilson et al., 2012).

Most mental health conditions are first encountered during the ages of 12–25 years, and approximately 20 per cent of the world's young people are affected (Wei et al., 2013). It is very important to promote mental health, provide accessible, youth-focused early intervention when it is needed, and to support the recovery care of young people, because we know that the earlier mental health care is initiated, the more likely will be the success of recovery (Boyd et al., 2011; Coughlan et al., 2011; McAllister & Handley, 2008; Wilson, 2007; Wilson et al., 2012).