Our Time was delighted to chair the second Annual Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provisions Conference on 13th October 2020.
Helena Kulikowska, Our Time’s Development Director, represented the charity at this event and made sure to highlight the needs of Children of a Parent with Mental Illness (COPMI) and the impact of the pandemic on this group in her opening remarks.
Despite taking place online, the conference was well attended, with over 100 delegates tuning in. The audience was made up of professionals and practitioners working in mental health across local authorities, schools and NHS settings. Speakers included organisational leaders, government researchers and mental health professionals working with children and young people.
Our Time was particularly interested in the presentation given by Tim Vizard, Principal Research Officer, Office for National Statistics.
Tim shared findings from a recent ONS study into predictor factors of mental disorders in children, which highlighted a strong association between parental mental illness and mental health disorders in children. Whilst we know that mental illness is not inevitable for COPMI, and can be prevented through supportive interventions, this research further validates the urgent need to put in place preventative support for families affected by parental mental illness – before this starts to take its toll on children’s mental health.
In addition to this, there was a very sombre presentation given by a school principal which highlighted the very high incidence of multiple emotional and wellbeing needs of children in areas of deprivation. Whilst schools are doing what they can to support children at risk of mental illness, the current system is failing the most vulnerable children and young people.
There was a glimmer of hope in the examples of dedicated teams delivering life-changing work for children and young people across the country. Whilst these were celebrated, there was a sense of frustration that these were pockets of progress within a larger system at breaking point.
However, what conferences such as this one do is bring together like-minded people with first-hand experience of the challenges facing children and young people today. We must continue to come together to share best practice and demand system change, and speak with one voice in the interest of children’s mental health, in order to bring about the fundamental changes that are required.