These two activities could help prevent mental health disorders in children, study finds

Clinicians are calling for more extracurricular activities in schools and training in coping and social skills to help prevent the rise of mental health problems in children, a new study has found.

According to the research, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and published in PLOS ONE, clinicians also suggested more effective ways to improve educators’ skills in prevention, identification and early health intervention. mental health, including mental health education for teachers and peer support. for school psychologists.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) is Australia’s largest child health research institute and the world’s top three child health research institutes for research quality and impact. The institute consists of more than 1200 talented researchers who are dedicated to making discoveries to prevent and treat childhood diseases.

What does the research say?

The study involved 143 Victorian and South Australian doctors who were interviewed to express their views on how the education system could better support students’ mental wellbeing and improve access to support services.

Clinicians, involving psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatricians and general practitioners, believed that the education system could play a vital role in improving access to mental health services by using existing staff or co-locating clinicians in mental health.

They also suggested that schools could identify at-risk children, use prevention and early intervention strategies, and implement coping and social skills programs.

MCRI researcher Kate Paton said some clinicians believe schools are well placed to detect students with mental health issues because systems exist within the education system for monitoring, such as access to records. school and attendance.

“School buildings act as a physical place of trust where mental health clinicians could offer services that are otherwise difficult to access,” Paton said.

“Clinicians have said that teachers can offer prevention by supporting students through school-wide psychoeducation, social skills, sports and coping programs,” she said. added.

The researcher further said that since the voices of clinicians were often absent from the debate, she hoped the findings would help address the need for mental health support in schools.

“While educators identified various challenges in providing this support, including lack of resources, perceived stigma, and an overloaded curriculum, understanding clinicians’ perspective on the role of schools and educators and how they might work together to getting good mental health outcomes are vital issues,” she explained.

“Understanding whether there may be multiple perspectives between clinicians and mental health educators that need to be brought together is critical if these professionals are to work together successfully to achieve both mental health outcomes and good education,” said the researcher.

The research builds on MCRI’s efforts to establish mental health support in educational institutions. A pilot mental health program developed by MCRI in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and Victoria’s Department of Education and Training has been rolled out to 100 schools this year, after being piloted in primary schools across Victoria .

The program was piloted in 10 primary schools in 2020 with encouraging feasibility results, strong support from schools, and signs that it could improve care pathways for students with emerging mental health issues.

The initiative incorporates a school-based child mental health and well-being coordinator to help identify and manage emerging mental health issues among students and make the connections between education, health and social services.

Early intervention

Professor Harriet Hiscock of MCRI said the prevalence of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which were the main source of disease burden, had remained stable over the past two decades.

“With almost 50% of mental health disorders beginning before the age of 14, prevention and early intervention are paramount if we are to reduce the lifetime prevalence of mental health disorders and enable children to live their best lives. possible life,” she said. Therefore, improving the mental health of children and adolescents has become an international priority,” said Hiscock.

The professor said mental health issues have such a negative effect on children’s educational progress that schools could not reach their academic potential unless they addressed students’ mental health.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Melbourne, Institute of Social Neuroscience, Royal Children’s Hospital, University of Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s Health Network Adelaide also contributed to the study. .

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