Mental Health Checks for School Children
A couple of months ago, a Cambridge academic suggested that children as young as seven should be given mental health checks. Part of the reasoning behind this is to diagnose and treat problems earlier because if left untreated these problems can lead to more serious social and economic problems in adolescence and adulthood, related to crime, unemployment, and suicide. I don’t suppose teachers realised that! Oh, and by the way, mental health problems cost the UK an estimated £105bn a year whereas screening would only cost about £18.5 million. Checks could be done in school by a councillor or trained specialist.
Ironically, when I googled the subject, the academic’s report came just above a 2008 article about SATs causing 7 years olds to become mentally ill. Mind you that was from a newspaper known for throwing out controversial headlines.
As a former SENCo I found it really difficult to even get adequate allocation of Educational Psychologist appointments. Statements for children with special needs were regularly turned down by the statementing panel which I deplored, but then when I was a panel member myself I could have wept at the even more needy cases that had to be refused because of education budgets.
So call me cynical, but I can see us in the situation where are we going to be left with a lot of children diagnosed with mental health issues; the government saving money on paper; all with no extra funds in the school budgets to help these youngsters and then schools being castigated for not giving help.
How about a different approach, such as developing good mental wellbeing. According to the charity Mind, if you have good mental wellbeing you are able to:
- feel relatively confident in yourself – you value and accept yourself and judge yourself on realistic and reasonable standards
- feel and express a range of emotions
- feel engaged with the world around you – you can build and maintain positive relationships with other people and feel you can contribute to the community you live in
- live and work productively
- cope with the stresses of daily life and manage times of change and uncertainty.
Apparently the tests will ‘de-stigmatise mental illness as they would apply to all children, regardless of socioeconomic status. They will also provide all children with equal access to mental healthcare.’
But could there be detrimental consequences for any ‘labelled’ children in the future, as a result of access to the test results?