Words matter: Getting the language of child mental health right

Words matter: Getting the language of child mental health right

Frank Oberklaid, Anthea Rhodes and Rhys Price-Robertson
12 August 2020

This webinar was the first of a two-part series exploring the importance of language in supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Father and toddler daughter in therapist office during counselling assessment meeting.

This webinar was held on Wednesday 12 August. Please post your comments below.

A full recording of the webinar and related resources, including slides, audio and a transcript, will be published soon. Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive a notification when these resources are available.

It is relatively common for children to experience mental health problems. Yet, without a shared understanding of child mental health between parents, communities and service providers, many do not receive the support they need. Getting the language of child mental health right is a crucial step in building this shared understanding, connecting children to necessary supports and preventing mental health difficulties into the future.

This webinar was the first of a two-part series exploring the importance of language in advancing child mental health. Building on a past CFCA webinar that focused on diagnosis in child mental health, this webinar:

  • explored how parents’ mental health literacy affects how they access support for their children
  • considered the risks and benefits of applying diagnostic labels to children
  • proposed a way forward for talking about child mental health.

This webinar is of interest to professionals working with children and families in health, education and social and community service settings.

Find out more and register for the second webinar in this series here: Words matter: How to use frames effectively to advance child mental health.

Related resources

  • Diagnosis in child mental health: Exploring the benefits, risks and alternatives
    This CFCA paper is designed to encourage practitioners to critically reflect on the role diagnostic systems play in their work with children and families.
  • Supporting children’s mental health during a pandemic toolkit
    This Emerging Minds toolkit contains resources that will assist practitioners and parents and carers to support children’s mental health during pandemic events such as COVID-19.
  • Child mental health: A time for innovation
    This Centre for Community Child Health Policy Brief identifies an urgent need to formulate a comprehensive, sustainable and evidence-informed plan to effectively promote and improve the mental health of children and the adults they become.
  • Child mental health: Building a shared language
    This issue of InSight highlights the impacts of the language used to talk about child mental health in practice, policy and community contexts on the wellbeing of children; and calls for a shared language that is accessible to the key players in a child’s life, and communicated easily to children themselves.
  • Child mental health problems: Can parents spot the signs?
    The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll is a quarterly, national survey of Australian households shedding new light on the big issues in contemporary child and adolescent health – as told by the Australian public. This resource shares the most recent findings.
  • FrameWorks Institute
    Working internationally and in Australia, the FrameWorks institute apply social science research to uncover the most effective ways of talking about social issues. This website includes toolkits and resources to inform the better use or frames.

Featured image: © GettyImages/AndreaObzerova

About the presenters

Frank Oberklaid

Professor Frank Oberklaid, AM, is an internationally recognised researcher, author, lecturer and consultant, and has written two books and over 200 scientific publications on various aspects of children’s health and development. He is Co-Group Leader of Child Health Policy, Equity and Translation at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne. Frank has longstanding clinical, research and policy interests in child mental health, and currently is co-chair of the National Children’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Anthea Rhodes

Dr Anthea Rhodes is a developmental and behavioural paediatrician at The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Melbourne, and Director of the RCH National Child Health Poll. Dr Rhodes has a clinical interest in the health needs of the vulnerable child. She also has interest and expertise in Medical Education and currently works in the University of Melbourne's Department of Paediatrics as a lecturer in the Child and Adolescent Health component of the University’s Doctor of Medicine program. Dr Rhodes has been involved in a number of research projects across the fields of health service delivery and health professional education. As Director of the RCH National Child Health Poll, Dr Rhodes seeks to put the voice of Australian families and communities at the heart of conversations about child and adolescent health, and ultimately inform national discourse, health priorities and policy formulation.

Rhys Price-Robertson

Dr Rhys Price-Robertson is a Workforce Development Officer at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Editor of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, and a Gestalt psychotherapist. He has published over 50 book chapters, journal articles and reports on topics such as mental health, fathering, family life, psychotherapy and social theory.

Questions and comments

Fantastic session, thank you so much for giving your time and sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Lauren Haeusler
Thank you to Frank, Anthea and Rhys for an informative and reflective presentation. As a multicultural mental health coordinator at Children's Hospital Qld, as well as coming from a CALD background, I understand that 'health literacy', culture and language are some of the great barriers for children and families from CALD backgrounds having to experience many difficulties to understand and access the mental health services. As Rhys mentioned that 'language and culture' goes together, I recognized the importance of your presentation and hoping that it can be further disseminating throughout various networks as well as in different levels of organizational structures particularly in children and mental health field. Thank You.
Anh Nguyen

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