Mental Health First Aid for Children
June 2021 - February 2023
Mental health issues that begin in early childhood can significantly impact developmental milestones and lead to disability and a lower quality of life in later years. Early recognition and provision of appropriate evidence-based interventions for mental health difficulties in childhood are associated with better health, education and vocational outcomes across the entire lifespan.
Despite the positive effects of intervention, most mental health issues are often unrecognised by supportive adults. Only 48.9% of children who have symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness within a 12-month period have been able to access any mental health service.
The University of Melbourne has been contracted to develop evidence-based Mental Health First Aid guidelines for health professionals working with children and their families. The guidelines build capability when working with families who have children experiencing a mental health crises and other diagnosable mental health issues. They are innovative and a world-first approach for early intervention.
This project has multiple outputs, including contributing to a growing body of academia that explores early intervention methods for child mental health. The research will produce these endpoints:
- Systematic review outlining mental health literacy for health professionals working with primary school aged children.
- Delphi expert consensus studies that will help inform the guidelines for how the target population of health professionals can identify, address, and provide care for children presenting with mental health issues.
- Guidelines for how adults working with primary school aged children can express concerns over mental health welfare to the child’s parents or carers.
- Report best practice guidelines for mental health first aid tailored for primary school aged children aged between 5 and 12.
These outputs will be published with open access. This will be invaluable for health professionals and other adults working with children who may have concerns about a child’s mental health wellbeing.
The outcomes expected for this activity are:
- increased awareness of child mental health issues and identification among health care professionals
- workforce capability-building through innovative research and easy-to-follow guidelines to provide mental health first aid
- increased appropriate action and care for children between the age of 5 and 12 who are experiencing mental health difficulties.