Mental health in schools

Earlier this year, researchers based at the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) at UCL , a unit dedicated to mental health research and innovation in childhood/youth, published an article focusing on the prevalence of mental health problems in schools (Deighton et al., 2019).  

Background and aims for the research – why was it needed?

Policy and research are increasingly focussed on the early identification and prevention of mental health problems in children and young people, based on earlier reported that 1 in 10 experience problems. However, recent evidence suggests that estimates might be higher, and vary according to population.  

The study aimed to explore the prevalence rates of mental health problems of adolescents in schools, as well as the characteristics which influence the odds of adolescents experiencing such problems.

How was the research conducted?

Online surveys were completed by children in Years 7 and 9, during a teacher-facilitated session, and following consent. Ninety-seven English secondary schools who were involved in the HeadStart programme were selected to take part, covering six geographical regions. The final sample consisted of 28,160 adolescents, with the majority (51.2%) of participants aged between 11-12 years in Year 7.

What kind of measures were used?

To assess self-reported mental health difficulties, researchers used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Four categories of problems are assessed within the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire – emotional, conduct, peer-relationship, and hyperactivity/inattention. Demographic ‘risk’ factors were also explored and this included: Special Educational Needs status, Free School Meal eligibility, Child in Need status, and ethnicity.

What did the researchers find?

Results indicated that 40% (42.5%) of schools reported an elevated risk of adolescents experiencing problems with emotional symptoms, conduct, and inattention/hyperactivity. Those in the ‘high risk’ groups were divided as follows: emotional symptoms (18.4%), conduct problems (18.5%), inattention/hyperactivity (25.3%), and peer-relationship problems (7.3%). Risk factors that increased the odds of adolescents experiencing mental health problems included deprivation (FSM), Child in Need status, gender, ethnicity, and age.

What did the researchers conclude?

Two in five young people were experiencing difficulty in the majority of mental health problem areas assessed (emotional, conduct, and hyperactivity). Risk factors included gender, deprivation (Free School Meals), Child in Need status, ethnicity and age.

However, the researchers cautioned that the increased rates reported could be due to greater recognition/reporting, and/or measurement issues (e.g., self-report may have resulted in higher estimates than a diagnostic tool would report).

The full article can be viewed here.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associate on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).

Self-Care for Kids

Too Much Pressure

With increasing environmental challenges and pressures on children and young people today including digital devices, exam pressure, and an increasingly challenging economic climate; perhaps a move towards empowering today’s young people by helping them to help themselves, in other words, self-care, is the way forward?

Sources of Support

Several charities specialising in mental health for young people have already held campaigns this year aimed at supporting self-care approaches, including Time to Change’s Time to Talk Day campaign held on Thursday 1st February 2018 with the slogan, ‘Change Your Mind’. The charity states,

Since Time to Talk Day first launched in 2014, it has sparked millions of conversations in schools, homes, workplaces, in the media and online.

Another example is ‘University Mental Health Day’ which took place on Thursday 1st March 2018, and was run jointly by Student Minds and UMHAN, and sponsored by Unite Students who run under the slogans, “Community Starts Here,” and “We Empower You.” Unite students recently launched the Common Room, a community Hub that provides resources to support students.

Young Minds provides a wide range of resources specifically designed for children and young people, and their parents, carers, teachers and others who work with them. Their #HelloYellow campaign is run on World Mental Health Day, which this year takes place on Wednesday 10th October.

 

The State of Children’s Mental Health

Despite these efforts, recent evidence shows that children’s mental health continues to decline and that stigma (another word for discrimination) is still a predominant issue when it comes to encouraging children to talk about how they are feeling. The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report highlights some increasing concerns regarding children’s overall wellbeing and Young Minds present statistics on various aspects of young people’s mental health. Time to Change have taken a look at how widespread discrimination surrounding mental health is still prevalent, which was presented publicly in their ‘Heads Together’ campaign in conjunction with the Royal Family.

Empowering Kids to Overcome these Challenges

It is clear that the challenges of our environment are unlikely to change in our children’s lifetimes and with technology only becoming more advanced, these challenges are only likely to increase. But what if we can empower our children to take charge of how they manage these challenges and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Self-help tools including Mobile Apps, CBT, Mindfulness are a few examples. CAMHS stress the important of nutrition and exercise on their ‘Taking care of myself’ page and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has put together a Toolkit for Schools.

For the Future

Perhaps there is still scope for further improvement to what’s already available? Discussions surrounding disjointed and inadequate mental health services for children have lasted for decades. Governments and policy makers are still striving for improvements and charities continue to redouble their efforts to make the message clear. Perhaps working on awareness needs to take another step forward and include our children directly, what if we asked children and young people to be more involved. Maybe a focus on increasing accessibility and improving what’s already out there so our children can find these tools and use them effectively with or without adult support is the next step.

Using Mindset to Drive Success – Michelle Spirit (NACE Associate)

 

Michelle is an expert on emotional resilience and adviser for Skills for Care and Mind: http://spiritresilience.com/

Full article here

“Essentially, mindsets are the beliefs we have of ourselves and our abilities. They shape how we approach challenge. Based on over 35 years of work by Stanford University psychologist Dr Carol Dweck and others, the research shows that those with a growth mindset are more motivated in school and achieve better grades and higher test scores. It’s important to know that mindsets are malleable, and something we can change. “