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).

Mental Health and the NHS Long Term Plan

In January 2019, the NHS published their Long Term Plan – a plan which outlines how the service will develop over the next 10 years. The plan is a published response to changing needs – with a population that is increasing in size, as well as in age, and some significant challenges that will also need to be addressed (e.g., funding, staffing, inequalities). The plan outlines seven chapters which aim to address such challenges, and includes the development of a new service model, further funding (e.g., to upgrade technology), and tackling workforce pressures, amongst others. Chapter 3 outlines how care quality and outcomes can improve, and includes further support for child and young people’s mental health services, and adult mental health services – of relevance to the Mental Health in Childhood and Education Hub.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental health services for children and young people

Funding

  • Over the next five years, access to mental health services in the community will expand, so that an additional 345,000 children and young people between the ages of 0-25 will be supported (e.g., via Mental Health Support Teams based in schools or colleges)
  • Eating disorder services will receive additional investment – this will enable services to maintain the treatment standard (e.g., urgent cases receive treatment within one week, and four weeks for non-urgent cases).

Access

  • Age-appropriate crisis services will be expanded, and a single point of access through NHS 111 will be explored.
  • Support for mental health will be available within schools and colleges – providing additional capacity for early intervention.
  • The transition to adulthood for young people aged between 18 and 25 will be supported – this may involve extending service models to offer support for those aged 0 – 25 years, and integrating a number of sectors (e.g., social care, education).

 

 

 

 

Mental Health services for adults

Common disorders

  • Access to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services will be expanded – focusing on adults and older adults with a long term condition.
  • Standards for patients requiring community mental health treatment will be delivered across in NHS in the next 10 years.

Emergency support

  • Mental health crisis services will be expanded – a 24/7 community-based response will be available in England by 2020/21 (for adults and older adults). Alternative forms of support will also be explored (e.g., safe havens).
  • A single point of access via NHS 111 will be developed.
  • Waiting time targets will take effect from 2020 for access to emergency mental health services.
  • Ambulance staff will be trained to support individuals in a mental health crisis.

Suicide prevention

  • Suicide prevention and reduction is a priority over the next 10 years – this includes the development of a Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme.

Further information about the Long Term Plan can be viewed here.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health First Aid

Why mental health first aid?

We all have mental health, which varies to some degree, just as we have varying physical health. Mental health conditions are common. In any given year, up to 1 in 4 of individuals in the UK may experience a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Moreover, the majority of mental health conditions develop before the age of 24 years. Attention in national policy for the NHS (England) is increasingly focused on early identification and prevention of mental health conditions (e.g., Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan). One proposed component of early identification and prevention includes mental health literacy, defined by Jorm (1997, p .182) as the “Knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention”.

Mental health first aid training

I recently completed the two-day Adult Mental Health First Aid training delivered by Mental Health First Aid England, which has enabled me to be described as a Mental Health First Aider (to learn more about the role, please click here). The training, first and foremost, focuses on improving individual knowledge (e.g., type of symptoms) of a range of common mental health conditions and is underpinned by the work of Kitchener and Jorm.

The common mental health conditions touched upon included depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, as well as personality disorders. Self-harm and substance abuse was  also explored, as were crisis situations whereby an individual expressed suicidal intent. In improving our knowledge and having open dialogue, the training seeks to reduce stigma.

The scope of the training

Our role as Mental Health First Aiders is to offer non-judgemental support (complimenting existing services provided), as well as signposting (in-house, local and national services). Importantly, those that are mental health first aid trained are not qualified mental health professionals (e.g., psychiatrist), and are not a substitute for professional support. During the training we were provided with practical tools for supporting individuals – this centred around the acronym A.L.G.E.E.

A – approach, assess, assist

L – listen non-judgmentally

G – give support

E – encourage to seek appropriate professional help

E – encourage to seek further support

Being a Mental Health First Aider is principally about hope – for support, for recovery, for the reduction of mental health stigma. In addition, the training emphasises that you should not neglect your own mental health and wellbeing in supporting others.

Next steps

Following the training, I am exploring ways in which my skillset can be incorporated into my place of work (a Higher Education Institution) and project (e.g., advertising – email signatures, posters etc.). It is important to be aware of what your workplace currently offers, and how you (and others) can complement that (utilise existing networks!). It is worth noting that many Higher Education Institutions hold ‘in-house’ training, and this is a useful option to improve your mental health awareness and knowledge of how you can support others (e.g., students, staff members). There are calls for Universities as a whole, and for supervisors in particular, to play a role in the early identification and prevention of mental health conditions in researchers, and having a degree of mental health literacy can facilitate this. Collectively, we can play our part.

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).