Advice for supporting children, young people and their families during Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We recognise that this may be a worrying time for our children, young people and their families. With our partners, we have developed some advice and detailed trustworthy information sources to help understand COVID-19 and talk about worries at this time.
Protecting mental health at an early age is vitally important to ensure future mental wellbeing and resilience. Improving the mental health and wellbeing of the population is recognised as having a positive effect on many different aspects of society.
Socio-economic factors have a significant impact on children and young people’s mental health. We must consider the context of their families, homes and communities.
Making Scotland the best place for children to live and grow up is an ambition shared across the whole nation. All sectors play a vital part in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It is not just the responsibility of specialist services.
- Up to 1 in 5 women experience difficulties with their mental health in the perinatal period, only 50% receive treatment. The consequence of not receiving treatment can have long lasting impact on children.
- The majority of mental health problems will develop before age 24 with 50% of mental health difficulties established by age 14.
- Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been found to have a lifelong impact on mental health.
- Children born into poverty are more likely to experience mental health problems.
- Education is important for wellbeing and can impact on many outcomes in life such as mental health.
Children and young people’s mental health inequalities
Improving children and young people’s mental health should be seen within the wider context of tackling societal inequalities. There are factors that make a child or young person more vulnerable to experiencing difficulties with their mental health, including:
- adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
- being from a Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority(BAME) background
- being looked after and accommodated
- experiencing domestic and sexual abuse
- experiencing homelessness
- having a chronic health problem
- having a learning disability
- having a parent with mental health difficulties
- having refugee status
- identifying as LGBTQ+
- involvement with the criminal justice system
- living in poverty
Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy
The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy takes an early intervention and preventative approach in both age and stage.
The strategy states the importance of early intervention in mental health from pre-birth through to young adulthood. Examples include the Scottish Government funding a Managed Clinical Network to improve the recognition and treatment of perinatal mental health problems. There are also actions relating to the support of children and young people in education settings.
The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme Board
The Programme Board was originally convened to oversee a set of reforms designed to ensure children, young people and their families receive the mental health and wellbeing support they need, when they need it, underpinned by the values, principles and components of Getting it right for every child. The Programme Board has progressed the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce (external website), with a focus on prevention and early support as well as promotion of good mental health. This included progressing the recommendations of the Youth Commission on Mental Health and the Audit of Rejected Referrals.
The work of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme Board came to an end in December 2020. This work will now be taken forward as part of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board.
The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board
The Joint Delivery Board is jointly chaired by The Scottish Government and COSLA and is taking into account the changing needs of our communities. The board will oversee reform across relevant areas of education, health, community and children’s services and wider areas that impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people up to the age of 25.
The Board will focus on prevention and early support as well as promotion of good mental health and the services children, young people access. The voices and experiences of children, young people and their families will remain central to decision making and service design.
Children and young people’s mental health across all policies
Protecting a child’s mental health and wellbeing via policy or legislation is far reaching. Direct and indirect work can significantly benefit various aspects of a child’s life and this contributes to improving their mental health and wellbeing.
The policy map below illustrates how children’s mental wellbeing cuts across a wide range of policy and legislation.
Mental health and Rights of the Child
The Scottish Government respects and protects the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (external website). These rights state that children and young people must grow up loved, safe and respected to reach their full potential. Fulfilling children’s rights is fundamental to protecting and improving children’s mental health and wellbeing.
National support for children and young people's mental health
Education Scotland have developed practices and approaches to support, improve and track mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in education settings. The Compassionate and Connected Classroom (external website) aims to improve understanding and support of children and young people who have suffered adversity and trauma.
NHS Education Scotland (NES) have produced a series of trauma-informed resources (external website) for people who work with children and young people. It supports staff to understand the impact of trauma and encourages changes to working practices.
Public Health Scotland, in partnership with Barnardo’s, have produced a short film: ‘It’s all about relationships: Embedding relational, trauma sensitive approaches in education settings’ with accompanying film notes (PDF, 306KB). This film supports all education staff in building positive relationships with young people and whilst it focusses on relationship responses within an education sector, it’s important to recognise that these messages are transferable across many sectors as we all work together to make Scotland a place where our children grow healthy, happy and safe.
We’ve also developed a series of 'Ten Top Tips' giving examples of good practice in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing through good quality relationships. We encourage education settings to download the 'Ten Top Tips' resources and use these:
- to promote public mental health messages
- as a resource to aid discussion
- to support transitions or critical points in a child or young person’s life.
Work at a local level can help protect and improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. You can find links below to resources and examples of best practice across a range of topics, including
- rights-based approaches and practices (external website)
- quality relationships
- anti-stigma practices and promoting mental health inclusion (external website)
- anti-bullying practices (external website)
- supportive learning environments.
Find out more
Contact the Mental Health team for more information on improving and protecting children and young people's mental health and wellbeing.