Sounding an alarm over children’s mental health | Letters | Society

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Sounding an alarm over children’s mental health | Letters | Society

As a group of educators, psychologists, mental health professionals, campaigners and politicians, we share Amanda Spielman’s timely recognition (Report, 27 June) that the massive increase in young children receiving prescriptions for powerful stimulant drugs is both “a very big warning signal” and an indication that we need as a society to understand and address the underlying social, behavioural and educational issues that give rise to this pressure.

However, it is also timely and hopefully reassuring that this past week also saw the establishment of a new group of like-minded colleagues called Cope (Challenging over-prescription of psychiatric drugs in education) across education, healthcare and politics to begin to consider these important issues.

Part of our mission statement states: “We share the view that a caring and morally mindful society must protect and safeguard children by allowing them to develop their unique personalities and behaviours and try to avoid the first response of prescribing psychiatric drugs for behavioural difficulties.”

With the support of the British Psychological Society’s division for educational and child psychology and the Association for Educational Psychologists, we hope that we might begin to respond to this warning signal with a more intelligent, more scientific and importantly more humane way of responding to the distress in the youngest members of society. We are particularly concerned about the growing evidence of serious side effects that can lead in extreme cases to the hospitalisation and/or death of school-aged children who are being prescribed these psycho-stimulants.
Dave Traxson
Chair, Cope, member of the Nice guidelines committee for ADHD and a chartered EP, British Psychological Society
Professor Peter Kinderman
President of the British Psychological Society, 2016-17
Kate Fallon
General secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists
Dr Brian Apter
Ex-chair of the division of educational and child psychology, British Psychological Society
Dr Vivian Hill
Course director for educational psychology training at the Institute of Education, London
Professor Sue Roffey
Emotional health and wellbeing, Exeter University
Dr Cynthia Pinto
Educational psychologist
Melissa Benn
Educationalist
Eleanor Smith MP
Labour, Wolverhampton South West
John McDonnell MP
Shadow chancellor
Thelma Walker MP
Labour, Colne Valley

• Time and again we are told of the critical state of children’s mental health (Underfunding of child mental health services causing ‘catastrophe’, 25 June), the shortage of medical staff who might be able to respond appropriately and the need for school staff to be able to identify the most vulnerable young people. However, too rarely is attention paid to possible causes of this systemic crisis: too rarely is it considered plausible that the state of education and the pressures of “achievement” on both teachers and students may be responsible. It is, of course, possible that there has been a rise in the incidence of organic mental illness among children but it is more probable that the causes of young people’s distress (and that of their teachers) lie in the nature of the society we have created. It is, sadly, no coincidence that recent letters (GCSEs: I’ll never forgive you, Gove, 26 June) attest to the intolerable anxiety that young people suffer as a result of their experience of education. As I have argued elsewhere, there are many aspects of education in this country that are now palpably immoral.

The solution to this “catastrophe” does not necessarily or solely call for additional funds or demands on clinical mental health services. Much could be done to address the state of education and the sanity of the nation, and it needn’t cost much.
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, Newcastle University

• Not infrequently, I need help from mental health services, working in paediatric neuro-developmental disorders for over 30 years. My caseload has a well-established predisposition to mental health disorders – for example, around 40% of young people on the autism continuum experience anxiety disorders.

My relief at the findings of the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), of unremitting deterioration of both quality and quantity of mental health services, results from the feeling of being undermined over the many years.

While my perception has been of ever-decreasing expertise and availability, government publicity has repeatedly told me that there have been increasing resources.

My despair is at the ever-decreasing expert help for my patients who, having been brave enough to come to me and find the words to describe their distress are, together with their parents, repeatedly let down.

As the ACP describes, specialists are disappearing to be replaced by the lowest level of expertise and simplistic formulaic approaches. As evidence has shown (What Works for Whom, Peter Fonagy et al), effectiveness of therapy is directly related to expertise and at the lowest level pretty useless.

Mental health services for children is a disaster zone. Much was moved from health services into local authority and then relentlessly cut by organisations that have little comprehension of mental health.

My colleagues and I find no evidence of improved mental health services for children and professionals and the press should make this unambiguously clear.
Dr Daphne Keen
London

• It is utterly absurd in these days of Google to require students to learn vast tracts of information (Pupils tell of new GCSEs’ toll on their mental health, 23 June). One of the advantages of ready access to information should be that it allows for more time spent on acquiring the crucial ability to criticise and argue and thus to form independent opinions and conclusions. As is now very well documented, people absorb information for life when their creative interests are aroused; that which is learned by rote will vanish like the morning dew, leaving no trace other than a thorough dislike of the subject in question. Helping my granddaughter revise for her pre-GCSE exams about 19th-century child labour, I couldn’t help feeling that our children’s so-called modern education is, as William Blake so acutely rendered it, merely an elevated version of those “mind-forged manacles”. Mind-forged manacles deter rather than encourage intellectual and creative development.
Salley Vickers
London

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/29/sounding-an-alarm-over-childrens-mental-health

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