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Plan to tackle mental illness in children


By Georgie Moore in Canberra
Source: AAP

Protecting the mental health of children under the age of 12 and preventing illness is part of a new world-first national strategy.

National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan wants parents to be equipped to spot the early signs of mental distress in children.

The national mental wellbeing strategy aimed at children up to the age of 12 has been touted as the first of its kind in the world.

“We’ve always focused on mental illness with young people and that tends to get diagnosed in adolescence,” Ms Morgan told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“So what we’re looking at here is how can you tell if a child is perhaps not coping, is perhaps struggling.”

Although half of all adult mental health problems emerge before the age of 14, there is concern about the lack of professional help for children under 12.

The strategy includes previously announced funding for helplines and mental health centres aimed at children, perinatal mental health, and access to subsidised psychology sessions for family members and carers.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the mental health of children was critical to their wellbeing.

“We know that proper support can improve long-term outcomes and can help children achieve their full potential in life.”

Ms Morgan said a “really solid, non-tokenistic commitment” to prevention and early intervention was needed.

“There is quite a lot of stigma around this for parents,” she said.

“In fact, our mental health is as much a part of us as our physical health.

“The earlier we can intervene and see what can we do to get somebody back on the right path, the better.”

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