Federal government launches children's mental health strategy

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The federal government has announced what health minister Greg Hunt describes as the world’s first National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Minister Hunt said the strategy provides a framework to guide the development of a comprehensive, integrated system of services to maintain and support the mental health and wellbeing of children aged 0-12 and their families.

“Caring for the mental health and wellbeing of our younger children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is critical. We know that proper support can improve long-term outcomes and can help children achieve their full potential in life,” said Minister Hunt.

“To ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and supportive environment that helps them, and their families and communities, to thrive, we need a mental health and wellbeing system that is well-designed, comprehensive, and nationally consistent.

“This strategy shows us how, and will be crucial to our current ongoing reform of the mental health and suicide prevention system. It is about ensuring the best for our children at each and every step and I’m honoured to launch it today.”

The strategy has four areas of focus - family and community, service system, education settings, as well as evidence and evaluation.

Assistant minister to the prime minister for mental health and suicide prevention, David Coleman, said, “Half of all adult mental health challenges emerge before the age of 14, yet few children below the age of 12 receive professional support. As a nation, we need to acknowledge this and do everything we can to change it. Our Government is committed to the task.

“This is the first time a national government has developed a strategy that considers mental health and wellbeing of our children, as well as their families and communities who nurture them.”

The strategy was developed by the National Mental Health Commission with the support of an advisory group.

“This is one of the most important and meaningful and significant pieces of work we have done at the Commission,” said commission CEO Christine Morgan.

“This Strategy proposes a fundamental, cultural shift in the way we think about the mental health and wellbeing of our children, including a change in language and the adoption of a continuum-based model of mental health and wellbeing.

“We could not have done it without our advisory group led by our co-chairs, Professors Frank Oberklaid and Christel Middledorp, and I would like to thank them for their incredible work. Through them and others, we have engaged with hundreds of people who care deeply about the mental health and wellbeing of our children and understand the immense benefits that flow from protecting and nurturing it.”