Mental health — an essential part of children’s overall health — has a complex interactive relationship with their physical health and their ability to succeed in school, at work and in society. Both physical and mental health affect how we think, feel and act on the inside and outside.
For instance, an overweight young boy who is teased about his weight may withdraw socially and become depressed and may be reluctant to play with others or exercise, which further contributes to his poorer physical health and as a result poorer mental health. These issues have long-term implications on the ability of children and youth to fulfill their potential as well as consequences for the health, education, labor, and criminal justice systems of our society.
All children and youth have the right to happy and healthy lives and deserve access to effective care to prevent or treat any mental health problems that they may develop. However, there is a tremendous amount of unmet need, and health disparities are particularly pronounced for children and youth living in low-income communities, ethnic minority youth or those with special needs.
One person in four will develop one or more of these mental disorders during their lifetime.
This represents not only an immense, social and economic burden to society, but also
increases the risk of physical illnesses, the only sustainable method for reducing the burden caused by these disorders is prevention.
How can you improve a child’s mental health, reduce crime/violence and health costs?
Get involved on a community level:
marketing and availability of healthy foods as opposed to fast food and tobacco;
health and social services;
community gathering places;
locally owned businesses;
environments that promote walking, bicycling, and other forms of incidental or recreational activity;
a willingness to take action for the common good;
positive intergroup relations, and positive behavioral norms.
By strengthening such factors, communities have significant capacity to enhance health and safety.