RCPsych responds to report on health of children under-five

Statement / comment
07 February 2024

The Academy of Medical Sciences has released a new report which warns the health of children under the age of five is declining.

It highlights the rising demand that children's mental health services are facing and the need to take urgent action to address this issue. 

Responding to the report, Dr Elaine Lockhart, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Child and Adolescent Faculty, said:

“We can no longer afford to overlook the mental health of babies and young children. Around half of mental health conditions are already established by the age of 14 and many of these may be traced back to our earliest experiences. Globally, an estimated one in five (20.1%) children aged between one and seven years have a mental health condition. 

“This report rightly highlights the cost to society of addressing issues, including mental health problems, that might have been avoided through action in early childhood. It is crucial that behaviours which indicate that a child might be at risk of developing a mental health condition are caught at the earliest possible stage. Many of these illnesses can be prevented and treated quickly if children are able to access the right support.

"This report is also correct to point out the increased demand for mental health services. Most babies, young children and their parents do not receive the support they need to address these issues both during and after pregnancy. Mental health services are under-resourced and inconsistent commissioning is putting children’s immediate and long-term mental health at significant risk.

“The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently published a report about infant and early childhood mental health which highlighted the importance of the period from conception to age five as essential in securing the healthy development of children into adulthood. We are calling on Government to ensure families in every part of the country have access to professional care by introducing new specialist services. This must be backed by the development of a cross-government early childhood strategy, workforce and training plan.” 

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