Why language matters for child mental health

In a follow-up MJA Insight article, MHiPS Director Prof Frank Oberklaid and Senior Program Manager Dr Simone Darling propose a new shared language for child mental health to help address the stigma experienced by families seeking help.

Prior to the pandemic, multiple reports highlighted a need for doing things differently in child mental health to address the ‘fragmented and seriously overloaded’ health care services and to overcome the barriers to quality and timely care. In response, Prof Frank Oberklaid and Dr Simone Darling wrote a Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) Insight article calling for a shared language in children’s mental health. Read more about why terminology matters in children’s mental health.

Since this time, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed new stressors for families and Australian parents have reported that approximately 63% of children aged 5-14 have experienced a worsening in mental health.

In their latest follow-up for MJA insight, Prof Oberklaid and Dr Simone Darling provide context on the challenges of traditional mental health treatment, citing that ‘the pandemic has further strengthened the argument for conceptualising and fast-tracking new models of care’ in children’s mental health.

The authors, and the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, suggest that a continuum-based model would support a broader approach to child mental health. This approach recognises that children’s mental health exists on a continuum and steers clear of mental health terminology that can be stigmatising or can act as a barrier to families getting the support and care that they need.

Read the latest MJA insight article to learn how the Children’s Wellbeing Continuum was developed and the role it can play in reducing stigma, identifying children who are struggling and enabling appropriate support, earlier.

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