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Context of children's mental health and mental illness

The development of mental illness or mental health concerns is the same for adults and children. Mental health development is influenced by biological, social, cultural and psychological factors. To understand the development of mental illness and complex mental health concerns in children, the context of these factors must be taken into consideration.

Put mental health in context

It is important to put a child’s mental health issues in the context of what else is happening. Consider the risk and protective factors for childhood mental health issues in the diagram below. The more risk factors present, the more likely the child will develop a mental health issue.

Source: KidsMatter

Practice prompt


  • What risk factors might be contributing to the child’s mental health problem?
  • How can the problems this child is experiencing be located in their social world, rather than with them as a person?
  • What can a family do to reduce the risk of a child developing mental health issues, or issues getting worse? Who might be able to assist the family?
  • What protective factors might be contributing to this child staying healthy?
  • How can work with the family build on these protective factors to improve a child’s wellbeing?

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