Children and Young People | News

Campaign to ‘Change The Story’ around children’s mental health

An NHS charity and its partners are today launching a major drive to ‘change the story’ around the mental health of children and young people.

1 February 2020

An NHS charity and its partners are today launching a major drive to ‘change the story’ around the mental health of children and young people.

The Maudsley Charity is raising funds for a ground-breaking centre in south London where clinicians and researchers will work together to transform our understanding and treatment of young people’s mental health – locally, across the UK and internationally.

The Change the Story campaign launch marks the start of Children’s Mental Health Week today.

It comes amidst mounting concern about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people unable to attend school and as referrals to mental health services rise. Urgent referrals to the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s (SLaM) eating disorder services, for example, have increased five-fold during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, one in nine children aged 5-15 had at least one mental health problem that has a significant experience on their everyday life. Early research suggests this figure will have deteriorated during the last ten months.

Half of adult mental health problems begin by the age of 14.

Work is already underway on the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People which will house modern inpatient, outpatient and crisis mental health care facilities for children and young people – as well as cutting-edge research facilities. It will bring researchers, clinicians and local and specialist services together under one roof.

This will allow the centre to continue the ground-breaking innovation in research and treatment which means SLaM clinicians can care for young people with some of the most complex and challenging mental health problems in the country. With SLaM clinicians and researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) working side by side, research breakthroughs should be translated into new treatments and interventions more swiftly.

The Centre will also support extensive schools-based programmes that reflect the partners’ approach of early intervention – something research has shown boosts the effectiveness of treatment.

Planned research in the new Centre will investigate the causes of child mental health problems from infancy through adolescence and will use these insights to develop new interventions, often preventing their onset and any complications. This will include a focus on autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression and trauma, eating disorders and OCD.

Maudsley Charity Chief Executive Rebecca Gray said: “With support from philanthropists and the public we will improve mental health outcomes for an entire generation – and for generations to come. We will give children the opportunity to rewrite their own stories – stories with brighter beginnings and happier endings. Our research will help us understand more than ever before what it means to be a child today and the pressures that young people are under.”

Dr Bruce Clark, Clinical Director for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at SLaM, said: “We have all seen the media coverage around the impact of the pandemic on the emotional wellbeing and psychological development of a generation of children.

“Once the Pears Maudsley Centre opens, our specialists will work with parents, educators and young people themselves to develop new ways of responding to mental health problems and addressing them.”

Professor Emily Simonoff, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at IoPPN, said: “We are at a critical moment where major scientific developments are close to transforming our understanding of children’s mental health problems. Lasting improvements to children’s mental health disorders are within reach.

“New collaborations between clinicians and researchers will accelerate our ambition to more effectively identify, prevent and treat mental health disorders for children and young people. That close working will mean research and innovation can be turned into new treatments and interventions more quickly.”

Children and young people who currently use NHS mental health services and their parents have been involved in the design of the new building. It has been sensitively designed to meet their different needs – including those with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Many of the clinical care models developed by SLaM and the IoPPN are used around the globe. The Trust provides more than 20 specialist services to help with the issues experienced by children and young people across the UK, including support for mothers and babies, child trauma, self-harm, OCD, autism, ADHD and behavioural problems, eating disorders, suicide, anxiety and depression. The IoPPN team is the largest child and adolescent mental health research group in Europe.

The public can find more information about the Change the Story campaign and the Pears Maudsley Centre at

Notes to editors

  1. For more information or to arrange an interview with Rebecca Gray, Dr Bruce Clark or Professor Emily Simonoff, please call Chris Mahony from Furner Communications on 07812 692722 or email
  2. The Trust and the IoPPN are able to provide expert comment on a range of issues around the mental health and welling of children and young people – including the impact of the pandemic. To request an interview or background briefing please contact Chris Mahony on 07812 692722.
  3. The new Centre has been made possible by Maudsley Charity, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and a range of leading philanthropists, including The Pears Foundation and Rayne.
  4. The Maudsley Charity works in partnership with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London to promote positive change in the world of mental health. We support innovation, research and service improvement, working with patients and families, clinical care teams, researchers and community organisations with a common goal of improving mental health. We are able to support work such as Change the Story though use of our own historic charitable funds and through financial support from donors and foundations who share our ambitions.
  5. South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is a large and complex multi-site provider of mental health services – providing the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK. We aim to make a difference to lives by seeking excellence in all areas of mental health and wellbeing. We also provide substance misuse services for people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Our 4,800 staff serve a local population of 1.3 million people. We offer more than 230 services including inpatient wards, outpatient and community services. We provide inpatient care for approximately 3,900 people each year and we treat more than 67,000 patients in the community in Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon. As well as serving the communities of south London, we provide more than 20 specialist services for children and adults across the UK including perinatal services, eating disorders, psychosis and autism.
  6. King’s College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,500 staff. The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) is the premier centre for mental health and related neurosciences research in Europe. It produces more highly cited outputs (top 1% citations) on mental health than any other centre (SciVal 2019) and on this metric we have risen from 16th (2014) to 4th (2019) in the world for highly cited neuroscience outputs. World-leading research from the IoPPN has made, and continues to make, an impact on how we understand, prevent and treat mental illness and other conditions that affect the brain.

Change The Story

Find out more about our campaign and plans to transform the way we treat and prevent mental illness in children and young people.
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