15 Policies That Can Improve the Mental Health of All Children

A new report from Child Trends, Are the Children Well?, argues that it’s time to change and improve the way we address the mental health of young people. Instead of focusing policy and practice on mental health illnesses, results of evidence-based strategies show that promoting wellness, prevention, and flourishing improves the mental health wellness of all children.

While the report does offer a wealth of information including summaries of previous reports, a landscape survey of current mental health resources and practices, and much more (read the report here), we were most interested in seeing the policy recommendations that the report offers.

The report shows that a child’s well-being and mental health wellness is directly impacted by the health and wellness of their parents, and policies that can support the parents and improve the child’s home environment include:

(1) Increasing screening for depression in parents (ex: through pediatricians), (2) Promoting “warm and firm” parenting through outreach and programs, and (3) Expand guaranteed, paid job-leave to all new parents.

It’s also important to empower and train the adults in the child’s support system, including teachers and medical professionals, to ensure they are equipped to promote mental health wellness. This can be done by:

(4) Supporting the provision of basic mental health “first aid” training, (5) Providing early-ed educators with training on learning techniques and support strategies, (6) Expanding the scope of training for adults beyond suicide prevention, (7) Supporting training for pediatricians and primary care physicians to improve competency in  mental health services, (8) Funding research programs that promote wellness instead of those that exclusively treat illness, and  (9) Support interventions that impact children at multiple environment levels.

Finally, it’s also important to align school resources and community resources, and to build the capacity of programs that support mental health wellness. Solutions include:

(10) Developing community capacity for respite care for parents of children with mental illness, and have it covered under insurance, (11) Start school for adolescents later in the day, (12) Increase access to high-quality child care and early-ed programs, (13) Encourage whole-school tiered approaches to promote positive school climates and mental wellness for all students, (14) Locate comprehensive mental health services in schools and increase partnerships with community resources, and (15) Rid the neighborhood of toxins, and improve them with youth-friendly facilities.

Be sure to read the full report, and as always, let us know what you think in the comment section below!

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