'Act earlier on children's wellbeing'

3rd April 2009 at 01:00
Psychologist wants intervention in primary years

More mental health interventions must take place at primary school to prevent pupils' lives becoming "seriously screwed" further down the line, according to a consultant clinical psychologist working in one of Glasgow's most deprived areas.

Mental health problems became apparent in most people before they reached 14, said Jim White. But often they were not picked up until later in life, when things had escalated. Early intervention was crucial, he insisted.

"People with mental health problems are more likely to fail to graduate from high school, more likely to be teenage parents and to be married and divorced in their 20s," he said. "By their 40s, they are more likely to be unemployed. We need to get into these people's lives as children, arguably in primary school."

Dr White made his comments at a conference in Edinburgh, organised by the Centre for Confidence and Well-Being in Glasgow.

Speaking to The TESS, he said: "Bad things will happen in life. It's about having the resilience and the ability to cope. It's about getting children to think how they would handle different situations."

People today were less resilient than they used to be, he said. "We have to get back to that idea that life is full of ups and downs and sometimes it can be just rubbish."

Dr White criticised current services in which people often waited at least eight months for an appointment with a therapist. At Steps, the NHS mental health team he leads in south-east Glasgow, there were no waiting lists, he said, and people were seen the same week. It also runs a telephone assessment service, advice clinics, a stress control evening class and workshops in assertiveness, self-esteem and stress management.

DVDs about mental illness had proven a popular alternative to booklets, he said, praising the Scottish Government for "thinking differently" and funding a production company to produce six programmes on mental health.

They are due to go out on Monday nights between the two episodes of Coronation Street, when viewing figures would be high, he said.

"Each week it will be a discrete programme presenting a problem like anxiety and working through how you might get over it."

SCOTS CONTENTED

Scots appear to be more content than the English. But the Welsh are the most satisfied people in the UK, according to a recent survey, writes Emma Seith.

A team from the New Economics Foundation (nef) in London has mapped the personal and social wellbeing of people in 23 European countries.

Now they hope the Government will use and repeat their research to monitor happiness over time and examine the impact of policy decisions. GDP had failed as a meaningful measure of social progress, argued Nic Marks of nef, which aims to build a new economy centred on people and the environment.

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