Lack of Student Mental Health Services Frustrates UK Parents

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Researchers are warning that teachers in the UK are mistaking poor mental health for behavioral issues and are using discipline and punishment erroneously. Because of the lack of proper mental health training, teachers often miss psychological distress and believe it is bad behavior instead, according to a new report.

Jess Staufenberg, writing for The Telegraph, says that scientists at the Center for Mental Health said their "state-of-the-nation" study on providing mental health support in schools in the UK found that a badly-behaved student will cost a school an average of £3,000 a year.

The Center's Deputy Chief Executive Andy Bell stated a failure to identify mental health issues correctly in some students and missing the opportunity to guide their parents to supportive programs are common predicaments.

In the UK, there are at least one million children who suffer from mental health conditions, but only a quarter ever receive professional assistance, according to the study.

Bell added that although teachers would like to be able to identify students who were suffering from depression, anxiety, or behavioral disorders, most have no time in their already packed schedules, or have not had basic training on the identifying the problems.

Most teacher training does not include adequate child development education, said Bell.

Sadly, the report found that unless there is early intervention, young people lived with the distress for a full ten years before the situation reached crisis level.

The Center's Associate Director Lorrain Khan reported that waiting until the breaking point causes more distress and damages young lives. It also leads to excessive social and economic cost. The report showed that a £1,000 parent-training course of 10 weeks can be much more efficacious than disciplinary measures for the child.

The UK is also suffering because of cuts to social service programs, making low-cost mental health assistance challenging to find.

The Center for Mental Health's report is titled Missed Opportunities.

"Most common childhood mental health problems can be treated effectively. Early help is vital to have the best chance of success," Lorraine Khan was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying.

Elizabeth Anderson, writing for the Parent Herald, says the report's executive summary states that the stigma that is still linked to mental health can be one reason for the "conspiracy of silence" that often causes the barrier to seeking help. For older children, not letting others know that something is wrong is common. Other roadblocks include lack of information and problematic experiences with mental health services.

Young people, families, and professionals across Britain say services are hard to access, while self-harm and suicides have increased, writes Luciana Berger, a Labour and Cooperative MP and shadow minister for mental health in The Huffington Post.

The study also found that mental health problems are most severe among young adults. Teenage girls in particular have experienced a decrease in life satisfaction, school-related anxiety, sexual harassment, and body image issues.

Recently in Britain, the Children's Commissioner revealed that 28% of youngsters referred to child and adolescent mental health professionals had been turned away, according to the National Health Executive.

The report's recommendations included having schools adopt social and emotional learning and increase efforts to reduce bullying. It also advised that more research and development was needed to reduce self-harm, eating disorders, and bullying.

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