I couldn’t believe it this morning when I opened up my copy of the Metro (not the most reliable publication I know) to read that ‘One in four babies at risk of abuse by being born into homes beset by domestic violence, mental health or drug problems’. The Guardian even went on to say that ‘[mental issues were] by far the biggest risk, with 144,000 babies under a year old living with a parent with mental health issues.’
I was outraged when I read this. It’s this kind of factually vague and quite frankly irresponsible reporting that hinders the ongoing battle by charities such as Time To Change, Mind and Rethink to end mental health stigma.
My first question was, what do they mean by mental health issues? The media need to realise that Mental health ‘issues’ take many different forms; Eating Disorders, Dementia, Stress, Depression, Psychosis, Asperger’s…the list goes on. How many of these disorders could the NSPCC directly link to risk of abuse to young children…probably not many.
Now I’m not denying that some people with mental health problems may at some point be unable to care for their children, and will need extra help once a baby is born. However this article makes it sound like all children who have a parent with mental health difficulties are all at risk of serious abuse. This is just Not true. In fact many people dealing with mental health problems are coping perfectly well with having young children and should not be included in this ‘seriously at risk group’ label.
When we look at the horrible cases of Baby P and Victoria Climbie, these happened despite the right authorities being informed by numerous sources. A lot of actions need to be taken to help children who are the victims of abuse and the NSPCC do a fantastic job of raising awareness, but I don’t feel that creating more stigma against mental health should be a bi-product of an otherwise very worthwhile campaign.
To the see article in question please go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/10/newborn-babies-abuse-toxic-trio
Then Join the Debate!!
Also see my previous blog about mental health in the media.