Infants and children urgently in need of mental health services

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Australian Psychological Society, NIFTeY (National Investment for the Early Years), the Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association, the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health and the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network are calling for improved mental health services for children, launching today Our Children Our Future, a blueprint for infant and child mental health services in Australia.

United as the Children's Mental Health Coalition, the organisations are recommending mental health services for children from early life and are urging the Australian government to:

  • increase mental health funding for children (0-12 years)
  • invest in prevention and intervention early in life
  • establish Kids Life Centres

"On average, 20% of kids in modern societies have their lives harmed by mental health problems, while 9% of Australian children have long term mental health problems. Mental disorders cause the highest burden of disease in children under 18 years, with almost a quarter of burden resulting from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism," said Professor Louise Newman, Convenor of the Children's Mental Health Coalition and President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

"Less than 9% of mental health funding is spent on childhood mental illness, even though 0 to 14 year olds represent 19% of the population in Australia and 50% of mental illnesses start before the age of 14," said Professor Newman. 

"One of the weakest aspects of mental health funding is currently in infants and childhood. It is vital that we intervene early in life and have targeted mental health services available specifically for infants and children, as well as adolescents," said Professor Newman.

"Investment in prevention and early intervention for children's mental health will produce an economic dividend through reduced pressure on justice, hospital and child protection services. Early identification and treatment is crucial to reducing the overall rate of mental illness in our community. Many mental conditions that start in childhood, such as autism, attachment disorders, ADHD, conduct disorders and anxiety disorders, have affects into youth and adulthood," said Professor Newman. "Up to 30% of the burden of adult mental health problems are related to adverse early experiences in childhood including child abuse and neglect. We need to act now to improve children's outcomes and the mental health of the entire community."

"Untreated mental illness in infancy, childhood or adolescence can have lifelong consequences including low self-esteem, reduced educational and occupational opportunity, increased risk of substance abuse and other mental disorders, as well as increased family conflict, family breakdown and homelessness," said Professor Newman.

"Mental health funding for children aged from 0 to 12 years needs to be increased to 15% of the mental health budget and mental health funding must reflect the burden of disease and be at least 12% of the health budget," said Professor Newman.

"Prevention and interventions early in life can address risk factors more effectively, have greater effects on presenting symptoms, improve outcomes for children and reduce adverse impact on children's development. Investment in prevention, health promotion and early intervention is required to support healthy emotional and psychological development for families with parenting, school and community based programs," said Professor Newman.

"We are calling for the establishment of Kids Life Centres to provide targeted services to intervene early, especially in conduct and anxiety disorders, to provide diagnostic and treatment services, educational enrichment for children and to support and increase the capacity of parents and carers to meet the needs of their children," said Professor Newman.

A copy of Our Children, Our Future is available at: www.ranzcp.org/images/stories/ranzcp-attachments/Home/Our_children_our_future_final.pdf

For further information, contact:

Kirrily Johns, Communications Coordinator: 03 9601 4940

Professor Louise Newman, President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists:
0418 453 447

Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM, Executive Director, Australian Psychological Society: 0438 518 778 or (03) 8662 3318

Ms Gillian Calvert, Spokesperson, NIFTeY (National Investment for the Early Years): 0434 183 717

Mr Philip Robinson, Chair Board of Directors, AICAFMHA (Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association): 0417 806 765

Dr Lynn Priddis, President, AAIMHI (Australian Association of Infant Mental Health Inc): 0417 986 710 or
Ms Pam Linke, Advocacy Spokesperson, AAIMHI (Australian Association of Infant Mental Health Inc): 0423 780 955

Professor Beverley Raphael, Chairperson, Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network at The Australian National University and Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Australian National University: 0419 214 901

About The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is the principal organisation representing the medical specialty of psychiatry in Australia and New Zealand and has responsibility for training, examining and awarding the qualification of Fellowship of the College to medical practitioners.


About The Australian Psychological Society

 


The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 19,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession.

About NIFTeY
NIFTeY advocates for investment in the crucial early period of life and provides information on the importance of the early years (including the prenatal period) to health, development and wellbeing throughout life.

About The Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association
The Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association actively promotes the mental health and wellbeing of infants, children, adolescents and their families and/or carers in Australia.

About The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health Inc
The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health Inc is a national organisation of professionals from many fields who work with infants and their families. The organisation works towards improving professional and community recognition that infancy is a critical time for psycho-social development.

About The Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network
The Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network aims to promote understanding of child and adolescent trauma, loss and grief.

Childrens Mental Health Coalition logos