Schools Should Play Larger Mental Health Role

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Schools should play a larger role in helping to reach children who would benefit from psychiatric care, especially in low- and middle-income countries, a new paper argues.

Mina Fazel, MD, a child psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and colleagues make their case for mental health intervention in schools as part of a new series in The Lancet Psychiatry. They say up to 20% of children globally would benefit from such intervention.

“Mental illness often starts in adolescence but doesn’t end in adolescence — it is a life-long disorder,” Fazel said in a podcast. “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.”

She added that while evidence shows that children prefer to be treated for health issues inside a school rather than outside it, opportunities to do so are not being done.

The researchers argue for early intervention given that 75% of adults that utilized mental health services had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder before turning 18. They also say that only 25% of children with a mental health problem in high-income country get the treatment they need.

Schools Should Play Larger Mental Health Role
Schools Should Play Larger Mental Health Role

Increasing enrollment rates could place schools in a crucial position to support mental health of children in low-income and middle-income countries. In this Review, we provide evidence for mental health interventions in schools in accordance with a public mental health approach spanning promotion, prevention, and treatment.

We identified a systematic review for mental health promotion, and identified further prevention and treatment studies. Present evidence supports schools as places for promotion of positive aspects of mental health using a whole-school approach. 

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