School is the place that forms the foundation of what a person grows up to be. But what if children develop mental health disorders in the school itself?
According to a new study, clinicians are calling for coping and social skills training and more extra-curricular activities in schools to help prevent increasing problems in children.
The research has been led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and published in 'PLOS ONE'.
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The research builds on MCRI's efforts to establish mental health support in schools. A pilot mental health program, developed by the MCRI in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Education and Training, was expanded to 100 schools in 2022 after being trialled in Victorian primary schools.
MCRI Professor Harriet Hiscock said the prevalence of mental health conditions such as , which were the major source of disease burden, had remained unchanged for the past 20 years.
"With about 50 per cent of mental health disorders beginning before the age of 14 years, prevention and early intervention are paramount if we want to reduce lifetime prevalence of mental health disorders and allow children to live their best possible lives," she said. Therefore, improving mental health for has become an international priority."
Professor Hiscock said mental health problems have a significant adverse effect on children's education progress that academic potential couldn't be achieved unless schools address student mental health.
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The study also suggested schools could identify at-risk children, use prevention and early intervention strategies, and implement .
"Schools as buildings act as a trusted physical space where mental health clinicians could offer services that are otherwise challenging to access," she said. Clinicians believed teachers can offer prevention by supporting children through school-wide psychoeducation, sport and social skills and coping programs," said MCRI researcher Kate Paton.