PHE launches UK's first mental health campaign targeting children and young people

Film featuring prominent parents aims to tackle 'increase in mental health difficulties' among children.

A film featuring the words of best-selling author Charlie Mackesy, read out by celebrity parents including Davina McCall, Katie Piper, Marvin Humes and Edith Bowman, aims to tackle mental wellbeing among children, young people and parents.

Animated illustrations and lines from Mackesy’s best-seller The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, such as “Sometimes I feel lost”, are designed to drive national conversation around children’s mental health and prompt parents and carers to take action by using Public Health England's Every Mind Matters platform.

Devised by PHE in partnership with a coalition of charities, including Barnardo’s, Place2Be and Young Minds, the work has been developed in response to research showing that the pandemic has caused an “increase in mental health difficulties” among a third of children and young people, according to Barnardo’s Generation Lockdown report.

Two in five (41%) children and young people say they’re lonelier than before lockdown. Meanwhile, 52% of parents say the mental wellbeing of their children has been one of their biggest worries, with 38% wanting more advice on how to support their children’s mental health when returning to school.

Alexia Clifford, deputy marketing director, PHE, said: “It’s great to have the support of so many of the country’s leading children’s mental-health charities lending their weight to our campaign to help children, young people and their parents at such a challenging time.”

The national campaign, created by Freuds, Manning Gottlieb OMD, M&C Saatchi and Wavemaker, aims to support children and young people – and their parents – as they settle back into school routines. PR, radio, press and social activity begins today (8 September) and runs until 18 October.

Yet with the demise of PHE imminent, this campaign could be its swansong. As health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on 18 August, functions such as tackling obesity are likely to be handed to local councils in future, while the coronavirus work of PHE is to be merged with the NHS Track and Trace facility to form a new body, the National Institute for Health Protection, specifically designed to deal with pandemics and led by Baroness Dido Harding.

Since launching last year, Every Mind Matters has generated a raft of celebrity-backed work including a TV film released in April, narrated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, designed to help people manage the effects of coronavirus, the lockdown and the economic implications of the pandemic on their mental health.

PHE’s work also includes the Better Health campaign, launched earlier this year through M&C Saatchi, which was the UK's first public health campaign focused on weight loss to be aimed at adults.