Our Time has recently contributed to a government inquiry into the health implications of environmental stress on children and their development. We know, for example, that mental illness and distress have their origins in early childhood. We know that brain development is affected when children live in unsafe environments and safe and secure attachments are fundamental to resilience.
This inquiry is very welcome and we hope that a coherent and funded approach to children and young people’s mental health will be the result. Our Time (previously Kidstime Foundation at the time of inquiry) was among the many organisations who provided evidence of the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and the long-term negative outcomes. We were asked to identify the gaps and which adversities have most impact. We partnered with the Children’s Society and submitted 20 pages of evidence, concentrating on raising awareness of parental mental illness and its impact on the children. This is one of the most hidden and neglected risk factors identified in the ACE research.
The interest in ACE is growing in the UK but it is remarkable how many professionals I speak to say, “oh yes, I am aware of that research,” or, “no, I have never heard of it”. The apparent lack of interest or concern about this dramatic research is surprising because there is reliable and compelling evidence that adverse childhood experiences, such as loss of/or death of a parent, domestic violence, substance abuse, physical illness and mental illness, take a heavy toll on our health. The intergenerational cycle will only be broken through prevention measures which offer the families ways to deal with their difficulties. Treatment is often too little, too late and it is expensive.