Missing the Signs

Teachers in schools are punishing children with mental health issues, completely missing the signs.

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Researchers have cautioned that teachers are missing all hints of poor mental health among pupils by handling behavioural issues with discipline and punishment.

A lack of suitable mental health training means that teachers repeatedly fail to spot psychological distress and mistake it for simple bad behaviour, as found by a new report.

Researchers at the Centre for Mental Health also said that in their state-of-the-nation study on mental health establishment in schools that an untreated, poorly behaved child will cost £3,000 a year on average in a school.

Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive at the Centre, said:

“Schools are often seeing behaviour problems as a disciplinary problem rather than a mental health problem.

“There’s always a few in every classroom, but I’m talking about children who regularly and persistently are behaving badly.

“Instead of just being a behaviour problem, it very often masks a serious level of distress.”

Of the one in 10 children – or one million at least – who suffer from mental health issues in the UK, only a quarter ever go on to receive professional help, according to the new report.

Many teachers wish to spot children suffering from anxiety, depression or conduct disorder, but few have the time within their main roles as educators, or the initial training, said Mr Bell.

“Schools are recognising it as a problem, but they don’t have the wherewithal to deal with this,” he said.

“Teacher training still doesn’t include healthy child development as standard. It’s extraordinary.”

Lorraine Khan, associate director for children and young people at the Centre, said: “Waiting for a child’s mental health to deteriorate until it hits crisis point causes untold distress and damage to their lives, and carries a heavy social and economic cost.

“We have to take action now to offer high quality help quickly to children and young people everywhere.”

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