Mental health is finally starting to be recognised as a serious crisis that needs addressing, and whilst vital steps are slowly being taken to invest in essential mental health support services, much of the focus is still on adult mental health. Children are just as susceptible to poor mental health, and if it’s not addressed in adolescence, it could go on to spiral and pose more of an issue in adult life.
Research has shown that those living in poorer households are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, including children. We work with vulnerable children in some of the most deprived communities around the world, so we see first-hand the impact that a lack of security and stability can have on a child’s life, and we also see the difference your donations make to a child’s health, both mentally and physically.
Child Poverty and Mental Health Statistics
Nearly all paediatricians and social workers agree that poverty is one of the direct causes of ill health, both mental and physical, in children. This happens all over the world, including right here in the UK. To highlight the extent of the child poverty – mental health link, here are some key statistics:
- 99% of social care workers say that financial worries contribute to ill health in children
- Children living in poverty are 3x more likely to have a psychiatric condition
- Children in the poorest 20% of households are 9x more likely to have a psychotic disorder
- 1 in 40 5–10-year-olds in poverty self-harm
- 22% of children with conduct disorders come from homes that have experienced financial crises
Disadvantaged children often face increased barriers to accessing healthcare, meaning those who are experiencing mental health issues may not have ready access to the treatment they need. In the UK there is an adult and child mental health crisis, with the NHS tackling a huge backlog of referrals which sees many people going untreated for months or even years at a time.
This is the case in one of the richest countries in the world with one of the best and most easily accessible health systems on the planet, so you can imagine how severe the child and youth mental health situation is in more deprived countries where resources are scarce and poverty is generational.
Other Triggers for Poor Mental Health in Children
In addition to poverty, there are several other triggers that have been linked to poor mental health in children and adolescents, with one of the main ones being abuse. Millions of children around the world are vulnerable to abuse, be it physical, mental, or sexual. Regardless of the form the abuse takes, it can have a lasting impact on a child’s mental health and lead to things like anxiety and depression.
Another key trigger for children’s mental health is the loss of a close relative. Any child can lose a parent to illness, but in the countries where we work, we frequently see children who have lost a parent to conflict caused by widespread instability. For example, it’s unlikely that a child in the UK would lose a parent to war at home, but in Palestine, this is a harsh reality that thousands of children face. In fact, more than 22,000 orphaned children currently live in Gaza.
Not only can the trauma of losing a close relative have an impact on a child’s mental health, but it can also leave them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, all of which can also instigate mental health problems.
Physical illness can have a debilitating effect on someone’s mental health, especially a child who may be ostracised from their peers if they are considered ‘different’. This can be compounded if a child doesn’t have access to specialist equipment and healthcare that could improve their quality of life, making them feel isolated and left out.
In addition to the above, exposure to an adult with a mental illness, bullying, and negative relationships with family members can also trigger poor mental health in children.
Effects of Mental Health on Child Development
Children who experience mental health problems are more likely to go on to face developmental issues, which can have lasting effects in later life. For example, some children may develop anxiety disorders that might go on to affect their ability to live a normal, fulfilled life free from stressing about the small things.
Other times, children with untreated disorders may find it hard to focus on school, and this can affect their overall education, resulting in issues finding employment in adulthood. Without secure employment, the risk of living in poverty continues, and therefore the cycle starts again.
How You Can Help a Child’s Mental Health
There are many ways you can contribute to child mental health treatment, both directly and indirectly. Here at Orphans in Need, we provide extensive support to orphans and vulnerable children in the form of safe housing and guardianship, which can protect children from the risk of exploitation and abuse. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of trauma-inflicted mental health issues.
For children who have been exposed to the atrocities of war and have witnessed the unspeakable, our Orphans Village offers both physical and emotional nurturing. We recognise how important emotional support is, and so we provide children with both the medical and mental attention they need to thrive. This may involve counselling, or it may involve simply being there for a child when they need someone to speak to.
Please consider donating to Orphans in Need to help a child’s mental health today.