Early response to poor mental health can save children from school exclusion

ENGLAND: A new study suggests that a child with mental health issues needs attention from primary school days. Then the chances of feeling excluded decreases noticeably.

The study was published in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. It shares that prompt reaction can help child patients with mental difficulties and save them from feeling excluded.

The University of Exeter led research was initially funded by a doctoral studentship from the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula, found gender differences in the relationship between mental health and exclusion.

The study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which included assessing children's mental health at a set range of ages from three to 16 years old.

Boys who entered the school with poor mental health are at high risk of exclusion in primary school, which prompt assessment and intervention may prevent. There were too few girls excluded at this early stage in their school career to be sure if they also had poor mental health prior to school entry.

Girls who were excluded in their final year of school experienced deteriorating mental health difficulties afterwards. Teenage boys excluded at this time demonstrated worse mental health than their peers but did not seem to struggle more afterwards.

Both boys and girls who were excluded between the ages of 15 and 16 years may have poor, and in the case of girls, deteriorating, mental health.

Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said, "This research provides further evidence that poor mental health may be both cause and effect of exclusion from school."

Tamsin feels that these children are often facing a wide range of challenges, and need both education and mental health practitioners to act quickly and effectively to prevent exclusion and improve both educational and health outcomes in later life.

The 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People in England survey reported that one in eight children between five and 19 years old had at least one mental disorder.

Children in the current study who were excluded from school often had poor mental health and faced early family adversity, signalling the need for support for vulnerable children throughout their schooling.

 

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