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10/05/21 – National Mental Health Awareness Week

10th – 16th May, 2021

By Helen Clark: Director, Child Mental Health Charter Campaign 

The theme for this year’s National Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘connecting with the natural world’. 

As so many of us have been cooped up inside our homes because of the pandemic, it is particularly appropriate to remind ourselves how important it is for our mental health and wellbeing that we can enjoy a full experience of the outdoor world. 

This is especially true for children and young people; many living in conditions with little or no access to an outdoor garden, let alone a safe public playground. Many of these have fallen completely into disrepair or have been permanently closed and not replaced. 

It is vitally important that children’s right to play is championed by the Government – and that outdoor play itself is included in the National Curriculum. 

National Mental Health Awareness Week also coincides this year with the State Opening of Parliament and a new Queen’s Speech. In 2019, Boris Johnson pledged to introduce new mental health legislation and a White Paper on the reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act is now undergoing a public consultation process. 

However, as it stands, the White Paper fails to place the urgent needs of children at the heart of new legislation. 

There has been some progress. 

For example, the Government has just announced an expansion of the new Mental Health Support Teams within schools and this is most welcome. Yet not every school has access to a Mental Health Support Team and they have no statutory status. At any time (unless these and other measures designed to support children’s mental health needs are made statutory in a new Mental Health Act) they can simply be dropped. 

As yet, children do not have the security that they both need and deserve. 

In this Mental Heath Awareness week, please contact your own constituency MP. Show them the Child Mental Health Charter (link) with its Six key Principles that are essential to underpin a new Mental Health Act in the interests of all children. 

Ask your MP to raise the Charter and its Six Principles in the Health Debate that will take place in the House of Commons in the week immediately following the Queen’s Speech. 

Boris Johnson must be told that children’s mental health is too precious to be ‘safeguarded’ by pilot schemes, no matter how well-intentioned. 

New measures for children in the forthcoming Mental Health Bill, underpinned by the Six Charter Principles are not optional but essential. 

Help to make Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 one to remember! 

Contact your MP; show them the Charter and ask them to raise it in the Health Debate in the House of Commons this week. 

Tell YOUR MP to speak up to put the needs of children at the heart of a new Mental Health Act that will safeguard the wellbeing of the children today who will shape our adult society tomorrow. 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 presents everyone who cares about children’s mental health with a great opportunity.