For those tempted to spend a sunny Sunday morning watching 3 hours of politics with Marr/Peston/Neil and their various guests (including IDS and JHBrewer) we suggest you give your brains a rest and do at least two things that will be good for your health, and the nation’s health.
1. Take a walk in the sun, or at least sit somewhere in the sun, thinking positive thoughts.
2. Take 10 minutes to read an interview published in yesterday’s Guardian, in which Decca Aitkenhead reports on a conversation with the brilliant Natasha Devon who was until recently our government’s ‘champion’ for children’s mental health.
We’ve been blogging and tweeting about children’s wellbeing and mental health for a very long time, but this article exposes the government’s disgraceful treatment of someone who dared to speak out against policies that have been harmful for our children and ultimately harmful to our country.
Natasha Devon had spent 10 years talking to youngsters and teachers, working out how to combat a mental health crisis of such epidemic proportions that even something as shocking as a nine-year-old cutting herself is becoming so common it starts to look normal.
Three children in every classroom have a diagnosed mental illness, according to the charity YoungMinds. One in 10 will develop an eating disorder before their 25th birthday. Hospitalisations from self-harm and eating disorders have doubled in the past three years, and in some parts of the country rates of childhood depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are up by 600%. The average onset age for depression was 45 in the 1960s. Today it is 14. Meanwhile, child and adolescent mental services have suffered budget cuts of £85m since 2010. If the government expected children left untreated to simply grow out of mental illness, it must be disappointed. Mental health problems now account for one in every three GP consultations.
(Natasha Devon) is fiercely political and wonders now if this had perhaps escaped the DfE’s notice. In an open letter to Michael Gove (“that name is a swear word in my house”) in the Telegraph three years ago, she implored the then education secretary to see that creative arts and sports were not the lazy option he imagined, but the lessons that taught emotional intelligence and self-esteem. Replacing them with a relentlessly academic curriculum and endless tests, she warned, would be disastrous for mental health. When offered the job of DfE tsar, she did therefore wonder “if maybe someone hadn’t done their homework”.
Last week she was sacked.
Please let other people have links to this article via email, texts, blogs, tweets and Facebook. The sacking of Natasha Devon is a scandal. The epidemic of mental ill-health is an absolute scandal. It’s time for everyone who gives a damn about children to stand up and say something – anything – to help raise awareness of what’s happening.
See also Natasha Devon on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5UVJMTjljo – “This is me being brave – it’s young people’s needs I serve.” ND