Q&A with Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

As part of our agenda for World Mental Health Day, we spoke to an organisation we have worked closely with on the topic of young people and mental health. Check out the Q&A below with Miranda Wolpert, Co-director of the Evidence Based Practice Unit at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

What are the challenges in promoting resilience and wellbeing in children and young people and how have you overcome them?

Whilst we know quite a bit about factors that occur naturally that impact on resilience and wellbeing we know less about how best to intervene.  A key challenge is the lack of clear evidence as to the best ways to promote resilience and wellbeing by drawing on natural strategies of young people themselves and their support networks, as these have been under-researched. To address this, we are reviewing the literature on self and community approaches to managing mental health and wellbeing and considering how we can add to the evidence base. We are about to launch a survey to young people to ask them what strategies they find useful in managing their mental health and wellbeing and which we should prioritise for further research.

What advice would you give to school staff or parents looking to support children with their mental health?

There are a wealth of resources available now to support children with mental health in schools. The mentally healthy schools website helps point teachers in the right direction and our youth wellbeing directory maps all the sources of support available in local communities. Schools across the country are doing a range of things to help children and different things work in different contexts – the key thing is for schools to seek to evaluate the impact on their students and pupils. Our videos such as talking mental health (for primary schools) and we all have mental health (for secondary schools) can help start useful conversations.

What do you think the future holds in terms of finding more about and evaluating “what works” for young people in terms of mental health?

It’s really important to hear from children and young people themselves about what concerns them in terms of their mental health and also what works for them in addressing this. The approach we have pioneered to tracking children’s experience over time and linking this with other factors in their life is helping us understand what works for whom.