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Mental health checks on all school pupils from age of 7?

(75 Posts)
NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 17:27:25

Not sure if this has been done elsewhere on MN, but wondering if there are any thoughts to be gleaned on this.

Apparently, a study published in the British Medical Journal recommends that pupils should be asked to complete regular tests throughout their schooling to assess their emotional and psychological health.

I have to say I was surprised to see Rethink CEO express reservations, but think Paul Jenkins is right to highlight teens as a very important time to look at mental health, and other thoughts around ensuring adequate services would be in place (rather than patchy as is now).

I don't think 7 is too young to learn about good mental and emotional health, perhaps screening in isolation wouldn't be all that helpful? How about activities to raise awareness, or do these already exist? Are they good enough?

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 17:44:39


flatpackhamster Wed 06-Nov-13 17:47:35

We screen for disease and provide innoculations for some diseases, so mental health checkups would be a logical next step. I have said for some time that mental health will be the next big 'thing' for the NHS to do - up until now medicine has concentrated on physical symptoms but mental health is (probably) more important.

I just wish there was rather more science behind mental health research and rather less flim-flammery.

Bonsoir Wed 06-Nov-13 17:51:54

Children's (as well as adults') mental health is highly dependent on environment. I think we need to be careful not to pinpoint DC as having problems that are not of their own making.

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 18:07:11

“The next step should be a trial to pilot and evaluate the short term outcomes of a routine mental health check in UK schools,” the paper recommends.

^This I would like to see. The trouble is a lot of outcomes associated with MH (such as effectiveness of suicide prevention etc are difficult to measure - you can't evidence how many suicides haven't happened, for example).

Bonsoir, if DC had problems not of their own making, a result of screening should be to identify and minimise environmental factors and promote coping strategies. If we don't have screening, we potentially leave a bigger burden for a child to carry until they are deemed "old enough".

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 18:08:45

minimise impact

quietlysuggests Wed 06-Nov-13 18:49:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HorryIsUpduffed Wed 06-Nov-13 18:55:44

My parents have an old exercise book of mine from age seven ish. They find it funny; I can see on every page the foreshadow of two decades of depression (that they still don't know about).

I think the idea has merit.

mimmum Wed 06-Nov-13 19:03:37

Yes all good in theory, except having a mental health diagnosis carries with it labelling and stigma and this us a v young age to be burdened with that. So as long as it is done sensitively snd without labels which might be hard to lose, later.

WooWooOwl Wed 06-Nov-13 19:16:52

It's a nice idea, but once a child has been tested and found to have a problem, then what?

Mental health services are already woefully underfunded. There's no point in testing if we aren't going to be able to make a difference to the results.

ZatIsZat Wed 06-Nov-13 19:21:05

Bonsoir 'Children's (as well as adults') mental health is highly dependent on environment. I think we need to be careful not to pinpoint DC as having problems that are not of their own making.' - surely an awful lot of mental health problems are not of the child's own making. I think the point is that it doesn't matter where the problem has come from so long as the cause is identified and dealt with.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 06-Nov-13 19:24:24

I think it's a fantastic idea! Dp was already showing signs of mh issues and self harming at this age so it would have been advantageous for him, he probably would have come to terms with his issues and be less reluctant to seek help now.

I think educating children about MH issues at a young age could help break the stigma of mh problems, I know I would have probably understood my dad better if I had, had his mh problems explained to me at a young age- it would have benefitted my self esteem

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 19:42:30

how about we screen for abuse and neglect, parental addiction and lack of supervision.

I would think mental health screening would go a long way to help identify the existance of problems associated with those issues. And yes, what happens after screening is definately the key issue. I would hope trials would evidence need for both screening and services, and be a start towards improving both.

In essence I would hope that screening would help to normalise talking about mental health and reduce stigma certainly for the next generation. It would have to go far beyond a simple tick box screening test though.

claig Wed 06-Nov-13 19:45:35

Sounds like something out of the Soviet or Stasi system.

I doubt they will be able to implement this. I think they may have trouble getting it past the Daily Mail. I think a lot of progressives will support it, but I don't think it will go down well with many other people.

There may be misdiagnosis, prescription of drugs that have side effects etc and false labelling of children who are boisterous or disruptive.

claig Wed 06-Nov-13 19:55:27

What's next, will progressives support checks to "assess the emotional and psychological health" of government employees and MPs and will their jobs depend on the ouitcome?

bishbashboosh Wed 06-Nov-13 19:55:35

Sorry but it is not always correct that mental health problems in children is due to environment! That's a dangerous thing to assume.

The word "health" May give you a clue.

Lots of children in happy homes suffer problems like OCD, anxiety and depression. Even with a lot of support st home, many will need further medical help.

Not sure screening is the answer but definitely more awareness in schools and GP practices.

claig Wed 06-Nov-13 19:57:01


peggotty Wed 06-Nov-13 20:12:01

Horry, could you elaborate on that? What do you see in your journals that tells you that? I have an 8 y o that I worry is on the thin end of the wedge to developing anxiety and there is also a history of depression in my family. I think screening from a young age (if done sensitively) is a good idea and could stop lifelong mental health issues from becoming ingrained if they're adequately treated.

HorryIsUpduffed Wed 06-Nov-13 20:19:43

Will pm you.

ZatIsZat Wed 06-Nov-13 21:55:25

poster bishbashboosh I doubt that. Homes can be happy and also contribute to anxiety etc.

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 22:21:14

I'm not sure anyone is assuming all mh problems are due to environmental factors (well at least I hope they are not) but it is a key factor in some cases, and changes in environment can be helpful in others, even if not the cause.

I wouldn't be keen to see those kinds of outcomes either claig, but I really do think more awareness and better attempts at providing joined up thinking around appropriate identification and support in schools, be that therapy or medication, is necessary. There are some great CAMHS out there that do much more than throw drugs as a solution, as well as some horrors, btw.

Much recovery work that I'm aware of includes prevention stuff. For example there are some good wellness plans, with great things in about relationship between physical and mental health. It would do no harm at all to give all our DC info at an early age about looking after mental health, and what to do if it becomes a problem, and how to respond to someone else who might be experiencing problems, where to find help etc.

indyandlara Wed 06-Nov-13 22:41:46

In Scotland mental health has been a very important part of the Health and Wellbeing Curriculum for the last few years. Problem is that I'm not sure that as teachers we are all adequately trained to assess mental health.

Pogosticks Wed 06-Nov-13 22:51:26

DC do lots at their primary schools about feelings and talking, being safe, who to go to with any problems, etc.

It's really really positive and helpful and I think mental health checks/work along these lines would be great for all children.

And wtf at mental health issues = stigma so lets not diagnose anyone????

I'd rather have a 'stigma' and treatment than teeter on the brink of suicide any day thanks.

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 22:55:31

No and that's a real stumbling block and something to be overcome. There should be at least one member of staff who is adequately trained imo, and part of a community inniative which includes parents, so school doesn't feel the whole onus is on them, and so that parents don't feel it is nanny state.

NoseWiperExtraordinaire Wed 06-Nov-13 22:55:56

x post, mine was to indy

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