General News Research — 22 September 2017

Research by University College London indicated that one in four girls and one in ten boys are depressed by the age of 14. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

More than half of primary school teachers say they do not feel adequately trained in supporting pupils with mental health problems, research suggests.

Just one in 10 “strongly agreed” with the statement that they felt they had the necessary training to feel confident about what action to take when a child was experiencing a mental health problem, compared with 54% who disagreed.

About four in 10 who took part in the YouGov poll said they were not confident they knew which organisations to approach to help a pupil with mental health issues.

But many appeared to feel ill-equipped to meet the needs of the children in their care. Just 12% said they felt “very confident” that they knew which organisations to approach to help pupils with mental health issues.

Three out of 10 of the teachers surveyed said they weren’t confident about recognising when a pupil aged 9-11 might be experiencing a mental health problem. Nevertheless more than seven in 10 said they felt their school was doing a good job at promoting their pupils’ wellbeing.

Theresa May has promised to prioritise addressing mental health issues during her premiership, describing it in her one of her keynote speeches as a “burning injustice”.

With child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) under intense pressure, schools are increasingly expected to play a role in identifying children who are at risk of mental ill-health and intervening early to support them.

 Yet many schools say they are having to cut their pastoral and mental health support services because of budget pressures. Research by University College London, published on Wednesday, indicated that one in four girls and one in ten boys are depressed by the age of 14.

Professor Peter Fonagy, AFNCCF chief executive, said: “It’s vital that we give children the skills to talk about their feelings at an early age. Not only will this help prevent problems being bottled up, it will give children life-long skills to help them help others as well as helping themselves deal with problems that might emerge later in life. Early intervention is absolutely essential for children.

“The fact that less than half of all the teachers say they’ve received adequate training is a concern. Early intervention is crucial but for it to be effective we need to ensure that teachers are provided with the training they need to identify these issues.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “We know schools have a vital role to play in promoting pupil wellbeing and in the early identification of children with mental health needs.

“It is essential that schools are supported by properly funded and well linked-in health and social care services. If support and funding is inadequate and services inaccessible or unavailable many young people could continue to get a raw deal.”

This piece was first seen on ‘The Guardian’ September 21 2017.


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