Research approximates that one in six children in the UK are affected by mental health problemsAnthony Tran/UNSPLASH

A new project, titled “Building a prevention pathway for early mental health problems”, has been announced, with the aim of developing a tool to identify early mental health needs in young children. 

The project will be led by Dr Christine O’Farrelly, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education. It will eventually seek to deliver personalised support to each young child who is at risk of developing issues with their mental health in their early stages of development.  

Research approximates that one in six children in the UK are affected by mental health problems. The mental health issues which arise early in life can affect the individual in both school and later workplace environments. The Faculty of Education states that strategies to prevent these problems “as early as possible” are therefore “critical”.

Previous early childhood programmes have often proved less effective due to the practical complications of wide-scale implementation: controlled research is often hard to apply to real-world settings. This project will use “cutting-edge techniques in epidemiology, data science, and digital healthcare” to deal with these research challenges. 

Commenting on the project, O’Farrelly said: “Stripping these programmes back to their most important building blocks will allow us to work together with families and professionals to redesign how they are delivered, so that they fit better into family life, respond to families’ needs and priorities, and are feasible and practical to deliver”. 


Mountain View

£1 million gift to fund mental health support at Sidney Sussex

The project will be carried out “by testing approaches out quickly, figuring out what does and doesn’t work, and adapting the approach based on this learning”, according to O’Farrelly.  

Drawing on previous studies on childhood mental health intervention, the project will identify useful techniques in the promotion of positive children’s mental health combined with new research.

O’Farrelly added that a “structured approach to strengthening mental health in those critical first years of life has huge potential to shape their long-term life chances.  

“Thanks to the Future Leaders Fellowship, we are embarking on a project which could help to change children’s mental health significantly for the better.”