Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, director of special projects at Coram, highlights importance of tackling ACEs in children's mental health discussion

Published: Friday 12th February 2021

Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent OBE, director of special projects at Coram, has participated in a fascinating Government Events discussion with the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Geraldine Strathdee CBE on preventable causes of mental illness in children.

Renuka noted that 50% of mental illnesses start by the age of 15 and that 75% are diagnosed by the age 24 and these problems often continue into adulthood: "The evidence show that early intervention works. We need a multiprofessional, cross sectorial response." 

Renuka also highlighted the importance of tackling ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), adding that children living in communities affected by "institutionalised poverty and racism" suffer more. She added that it is "society's duty to protect children hidden in plain sight". Children with ACEs, particularly poor and BAME children, are overrepresented in the care system, youth offending institutes as well as psychiatric institutions.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee CBE echoed this and said: "One biggest preventative intervention is tackling ACEs. We need to put children at the heart of our thinking about positive mental health." The former National Clinical Director for Mental Health, NHS England, also noted that most health bodies are not child and family trained, meaning they can miss important opportunities to offer effective early support. 

Renuka noted that the pandemic had provided a "teachable moment" and "highlighted situations of social exclusion and that inequalities cannot continue", renewing the call for early intervention "before problems become embedded". The video can be viewed on the Government Events website.