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Mental Health Screening for Schools

Posted by Sally O'Brien, on 08/10/2014. Mental Health Screening for SchoolsTags: Education And Politics Parenting

A study carried out by Dr Mina Fazel, and published in medical journal The Lancet, found that schools could be the optimal place for identifying, preventing and treating children with mental health issues.

The study found that mental health problems affect 10—20% of children and adolescents worldwide and account for a large portion of the worldwide burden of disease. The findings showed that a staggering 75% of adults who have accessed mental health services had a diagnosable disease before the age of 18. But only 25% of children with mental health issues are diagnosed and treated.

Speaking to The Lancet Psychiatry in a podcast, series lead by author Dr Fazel, a child psychiatrist at the University of Oxford in the UK explains,

"Mental illness often starts in adolescence but doesn't end in adolescence: it is a life-long disorder. It is therefore essential to find innovative ways to approach treatment and to reach young people to maximise their academic, emotional, and social development, and schools are where children spend much of their time”.

The most common disorders in school children are behavior disorders, anxiety, and depression and if left untreated will affect development long term.

However, school screening for mental health is still controversial with concerns being raised on the problem of stigmatising children. But, Dr Fazel disagrees,

"If 10% of children had diabetes, we wouldn't be saying that screening was a bad thing. Schools provide a platform to access large proportions of young people, and the vast majority of children picked up by screening would not need complex interventions."
The study found that if screenings were carried out in schools it could benefit 10–20% of children and young people.

"The evidence shows that children prefer to be seen in school rather than outside school. But right now, health and education are very different systems", adds Dr Fazel. "The reality is that we are not maximising on the opportunities to work in these environments. We need to have an approach that is child focused and to do this health and education must become more closely aligned."

Source: The Lancet Psychiatry.

For more on children’s health, please see our health and wellbeing resource.


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