Mental health issues in children are often talked about in the media. Support available to such children seems to be hard to get. People I know of who work in other schools around our local area seem to think that actually it is all a lot of hype and it isn’t really that bad.
Mental health is hard to see, often hard to describe. Has Child A got a mental health issue or is it a stage they are going through that is at the far edge of normal? Is it a mental health issue or is it their personality and they are quite happy being as they are and don’t cause others any trouble? Is it a mental health issue or are they just a naughty child? Have these mental health issues always existed?
I have an option to refer children to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) if I think that there is a mental health issue. I can fill in the very long form with my concerns, their family background, whether they are known drug abusers (so far none have ticked this box but they are all under 11), are they suicidal (some have said they would like to kill themselves or would prefer to be dead – do they mean it? I can’t be sure), do they self harm etc etc. I send off the form. I wait. Frequently the response is that the parents need to do a parenting course, we have normally thought of that and gone through the proper channels to find an appropriate course and offered it to the parents. Most parents are willing to try anything, some don’t want to. If a parent doesn’t want to we can’t make them, equally well CAMHS don’t then say, “OK we’ll see the child anyway!”
Some parents, often the ones who wait and then attend a 12 week course, are parents who have several other children who don’t display the same problems. Is it parenting? Is it the child’s response to the parenting? I don’t know.
I’m not too sure exactly what they do at CAMHS once the children get there – I do know that Attachment Disorder is a frequently cited problem. That’s OK they do Attachment Disorder clinics/ workshops, there is about a 2 year wait but don’t worry, these problems don’t go away.
Attachment disorders look like a lot of other things – there can be symptoms of ADHD, symptoms of autistic spectrum disorders and symptoms of a few other things as well. We can often guess, from family history, that Attachment problems will be the diagnosis but we aren’t experts. We are learning, with help from the Educational Psychologists and a lot of practice, some of the things that we can do. We are learning how to make children feel safe, how to trust adults, how to become dependent upon people and how to safely break away that dependence so that they can become independent. It is just so sad that for so many children we need to do this.
In the mean time we have deeply unhappy children. Children who can’t enjoy and make the most of their school years and the exciting opportunities that they are given. We have others who have had a stable family background and still have major issues. We want to help them all but we are school staff, teachers, TAs, dinner time assistants. we do our best but…
Is there a mental health crisis in our schools, unfortunately I think there is and that it may get worse before it gets better.