Everybody’s business

No one can fail to be shocked by the thought that one in 10 children aged fi ve to 15 has a clinically diagnosable mental disorder. This means a staggering three pupils per school class are living with problems including anxiety, depression, attention defi cit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorders.

Yet, according to school watchdog Ofsted, many schools are still unaware of the importance of pupils’ emotional well-being, and teacher training is doing little to equip those in charge of the classroom with the skills to identify problems and offer appropriate responses. GPs’ understanding of the issue appears to be little better, and their training equally inadequate.

The government estimates there are 1.1 million young people under the age of 18 who would benefi t from specialist mental health services. Yet child and adolescent mental health (CAMHm) services across the country employ just 9,000 people. This means, to take this job on alone, every CAMH services employee would need to have a caseload of about 122 children.

Never has it been more important, therefore, for those working in the universal services of education and primary care to play their role – and be trained to do so. By helping those children with less severe problems, this will free up specialists’ time  to deal with the more severe cases. In return, specialist CAMH services workers will need to be on hand to offer advice.

Such cross-agency working arrangements ought to be aided by the Common Assessment Framework. However, Sheffield Area Child Protection Committee recently warned that progress towards implementing this was being impeded by the growing independence of health and education organisations.

One thing that is certain is that CAMH services alone cannot deliver the level of provision required. It is imperative that schools and primary care organisations adjust their own priorities and commit to this essential cause.

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