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Child mental health referrals rise by one-third - expert comment

Commenting on findings from the NSPCC that the number of referrals by schools seeking mental health treatment for pupils has shot up by over a third in the last 3 years, Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown of Warwick Medical School said:

"These statistics are shocking but in some ways they are also positive. They mean that the hidden problem of children’s mental health is becoming less hidden. And once something becomes to light it is possible to give it the attention it needs.

"Mental health problems in children have been known by those who study these things to be a major concern for a long time. More than one in ten children have some form of mental health problem and a very small proportion of these children and their families get help.

"Mental health problems in childhood are of life long consequence. Affected children are likely to suffer with mental health problems throughout their lives; there are serious knock on effects on their physical health too; and their capacity to form the sort of health enhancing relationships with others in adult life is also likely to be impaired. In childhood it is not just the children who suffer it is their parents, teachers and classmates too.

"More NHS services are needed to address this problem but much more importantly we need to address prevention and promotion. We need to change the conditions in the family home, in schools and in society which create the conditions where children’s mental health suffers. We know how to do this and before austerity hit community services and funding of schools these services were starting to be provided throughout the country. Now many of them have had to close. Reopening services to support parents and teachers better care for children is very important. Addressing educational policy that puts cognitive achievement above emotional and social development is another. And creating conditions in which parents do not need to sacrifice down time with their children in order to provide them with homes is another."

14 May 2018