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Elizabeth Holmes

Learning about children’s mental health: the essentials

Help teachers develop the skills needed to identify children with a mental health condition using this online tool from MindEd

‘There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.’ Laurell K Hamilton

The mental health of the nation’s children and young people is in a shocking state, it seems. Quite apart from the evidence for this to be found on the waiting lists for the impoverished mental health services currently on offer, it’s hard to find a teacher in the land who doesn’t recognise the struggles that some pupils have with maintaining a healthy equilibrium. According to a 2014 survey, more than a third of adults are unsure about the signs of depression in children, and over half fear approaching the subject, in case they are mistaken. For the children affected, this can lead to devastating delays in care.

MindEd

To address this indisputable need, a  website was launched in 2014 to support those working with children and young people in spotting the signs of emotional distress and signposting where they can get help. MindEd attempts to fill a gap in expertise, by equipping adults with the information they need to help the children in their care. It could form an incredibly useful basis for much-needed professional learning in schools. The MindEd online tool contains bite-sized e-learning packages to help teachers and others working with young people develop the skills needed to identify those with a mental health condition.

Early diagnosis is crucial

Shockingly, over 850,000 children in the UK have been diagnosed with a mental health problem. There is no way of knowing just how many others are struggling without a diagnosis and subsequent access to care, however patchy. For Dr Raphael Kelvin, child psychiatrist and clinical lead for the MindEd programme, early identification is crucial: ‘Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21, so identifying children at the earliest opportunity is crucial in setting them on the best path in life’.

Schools can help

The mental health of children and young people needs expert care, and schools are increasingly called upon to identify when that care should be sought. If staff don’t see this as part of their remit, important signals that a child is struggling may be missed – to potentially devastating effect. It is no longer acceptable (even if it ever was) to think of child mental health as belonging in the realm of healthcare. Schools have valuable opportunities to help identify need and to encourage solutions and support. Devoting valuable CPD time to giving school staff knowledge and skills can only be of benefit to the learners in our care.

 

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