Children should be screened for mental health problems from the age of seven, a public health expert has said.
Physical checks already administered at schools should be extended to include an assessment of children's emotional state, said Dr Simon Williams, a former fellow in public health at the University of Cambridge.
Writing in the BMJ medical journal, Dr Williams, who is now a visiting scholar at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago, said that early diagnosis would allow children to be referred to specialists and help reduce the stigma around mental illness.
Routine checks, using questionnaires which contain questions about thoughts and feelings, could pick up disorders early which, left untreated, could lead to serious mental illness, he said.
Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds, said: “Screening as part of early intervention is theoretically a positive step forward but it must be backed up with comprehensive support and treatment."