Bright Futures: Promoting Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



(2000), "Bright Futures: Promoting Children and Young People’s Mental Health", Health Education, Vol. 100 No. 3, pp. 131-132.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book provides another wide ranging overview of a contentious and sensitive area. Mental health has long been the “poor relation” in all the disciplines that are concerned with it: in psychology, health promotion, education and the health service, the area has never been well resourced or taken as seriously as other issues. Furthermore the mental health of children and young people has never had much status within psychiatry, so it is in effect a “Cinderella subject within a Cinderella subject”. Recently, however, there has been a welcome increase in interest in the prevention of mental health problems, and even in the promotion of positive mental wellbeing, in the young, with a rise in the number of publications and conferences on the issue. This report by the Mental Health Foundation makes a first rate contribution to our knowledge in this area, and packs an astonishing amount into its 150+ pages. As is so often the case with work on “mental health”, the book focuses to a large extent on mental illness and problems, rather than on positive health, but, that said, it takes a broad, social and unusually positive approach which manages, in part at least, to live up to the promise of the upbeat title. The first one‐third of the book is in fact as relevant to mental wellbeing as to mental illness. It begins by examining mental health and children and young people, looking not only at the usual “risk” factors that predispose youngsters to problems, but, more optimistically, the “resilience” factors that can protect them. It takes a refreshingly social perspective on the determinants of mental health, examining social factors such as employment and unemployment, income inequalities and community supports in creating or reducing mental health problems. Its suggestions for what needs to be done in terms of support for families and children in schools are wide ranging and holistic, and the vision is getting close to being that of a health‐promoting school, although it does not use that term and the authors seem unfortunately unaware of work in this area. The final two‐thirds of the report revert more to the usual focus on mental illness and problems, but nevertheless are extremely helpful in this regard. There is a very useful summary of the valuable work on early intervention which is helping to prevent problems, and an exploration of the services available for young people and their families, which examines some ground breaking areas, such as the role of government, the prospects for inter‐agency working and the role, views and needs of parents. The report concludes with some stirring clarion calls for consciousness raising and action; mental health of young people should be everyone’s business, is an investment for all our futures, and we need clear frameworks, standards and leadership to make this a reality. The book will be of use to all from health and from education who have an interest in mental health and the young, providing both a valuable summary of what is known about the causes of mental health and illness, and outlining the main considerations that should guide our responses to mental health problems and the promotion of mental health in young people.

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