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Friday, October 10, 2014

Need for Mental Health Screening in Schools

Millions of Americans who struggle with mental illness fail to receive treatment. Left untreated, the insidious nature of mental illness can destroy lives and devastate families. While mental illness can develop at an early age, sadly, only one-fourth of children with mental health problems are diagnosed and treated, HealthDay reports.

In fact, new research from the University of Oxford in England showed that about three-quarters of adults, who have been treated for a mental illness, had a diagnosable disorder before they were 18. The report highlighted the need for schools to play a larger role in assisting students with mental health disorders.

“Mental illness often starts in adolescence but doesn’t end in adolescence: it is a life-long disorder,” lead author Dr. Mina Fazel said in a journal news release. “It is therefore essential to find innovative ways to approach treatment and to reach young people to maximize their academic, emotional and social development, and schools are where children spend much of their time.”

School children most commonly suffer from behavioral disorders and anxiety, with depression being more prevalent in secondary school, Fazel said. Untreated mental health problems can impact young people in a number of ways developmentally, leading to failure in school and non-attendance as well as affecting long-term career choices and relationships.

While mental health experts advocate psychiatric screening in schools, some critics are concerned that with screening will come labeling which will lead to stigmatization, according to the article.

"If 10 percent of children had diabetes, we wouldn't be saying that screening was a bad thing. Schools provide a platform to access large proportions of young people, and the vast majority of children picked up by screening would not need complex interventions,” Fazel said. “We know what works, but where we fall down is implementing this on a large scale in schools. We also need national policies to help education and mental health services work more closely together.”

The report can be found in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

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