An 11-year-old from St Peter’s is hoping his ‘wacky outfits’ this week will open up conversations about children’s mental health.
Charles Dickens student John Pond is autistic and suffers anxiety and hyper-mobility -a condition of ‘loose’ joints. He is taking part in ‘Dress to Express’ to mark Children’s Mental Health Week this week ( February 7-13).
Children’s mental health charity Place2Be has set up Children’s Mental Health Week 2022 to highlight the importance of mental health for children and young people. This year, the theme is ‘Growing Together’.
John will be dressed in different outfits every day after school and will be out and about promoting and raising money for the cause. He will also attend his usual drama group and scout pack in his outfits.
Nationally one in five children suffer from poor mental health, that’s roughly 6 in every class. Half of adults with poor mental health started showing signs before they were 14.
In a poignant statement on his fundraising page John said: “I am the 1 in 6. I suffer with mental health and anxiety. I have been bullied. I have tried to take my life. I received help.
“Because of charities like Place2Be I am able to work through my problems. But many children aren’t as fortunate as me. Funding and cutbacks mean not all children have access to mental health support or have a long wait in order to access it. This needs to change.
“Many children can’t talk to anyone because there is still a stigma around mental health, particularly in boys and children. This too needs to change. I am hoping that by wearing expressive clothing I might trigger that conversation and raise money at the same time.
“Place2Be is the UK’s leading school-based mental health charity, providing support to children, families and school-based staff when they need it most. Please help me support Place2Be’s vital work, and together we can make a real difference to children’s mental health and ensure that children don’t have to face mental health problems alone.”
John’s mum Emma added: “If we can start the conversation early and get support early, maybe less adults would be suffering too. But there’s not enough services in the area for adults let alone children.
“The event is called dress to express. It essentially involves him dressing as he puts it ‘in mental clothing for mental health.’ He’s hoping his wacky dress sense will get people asking why he’s wearing what he’s wearing and start the conversation about children’s mental health.”
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Kent
Since September 2017 all Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Kent have been provided by North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT). The service is known as Kent Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).
The service is open to young people between the ages of 0-18, or up to 25 in some instances, for example those with special educational needs.
CYPMHS offers advice and support for stress, low mood and depression, anxiety, self-harm or difficult to manage behaviours. NELFT also provide support for neurodevelopmental difficulties such as ADHD or ASC.
The Kent and Medway Adolescent Hospital (KMAH) is the first inpatient mental health unit for children and young people in Kent and Medway run by NEFLT which took over the unit on 1 April 2020. It provides in-patient mental health support and care for 11 patients.
However, there has been a rise in demand for children’s mental health services since the covid pandemic began which has meant some young people are moved out of area for in-patient care.
Last year NEFLT reported that child referrals grew from around 2,000 in March 2020 to more than 2,500 in March 2021.
There was also a significant rise in the number of youngsters using Kent Community Health Trust services from 25 in May 2020 to a peak of 140 in March 2021.
Find details of Place2Be at: https://www.place2be.org.uk/
Find help and advice from Young Minds charity at: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/