Plea for help onmental health

2nd October 1998 at 01:00
SCHOOLS need psychiatric help to support the emotional well-being of pupils, according to one of Scotland's leading experts on children's mental health. Peter Grafton, education co-ordinator of the pioneering Renfrewshire Association for Mental Health, condemned resources for schools as "hopelessly inadequate".

Speaking at an Edinburgh conference last week, Mr Grafton contrasted the Pounds 24 million extra announced for Higher Still against the Pounds 9 million for mental health, which is shared between 16 health boards over three years.

Only one health board has received money from the mental health development fund for work with children, and many waiting lists for pupils to see psychologists are up to a year long.

He said: "I know of a school with more than 1,000 pupils and the only health help they have is two people in the admin office with first aid certificates. One of the first things that will suffer when NHS trust budgets are tight are school health services."

Mr Grafton added: "There is a concept called the health-promoting school, which is a brilliant idea, but it usually applies to trying to persuade children not to buy junk from the tuck shop. But what about combating stress, humiliation, bullying? It has to include the promotion of emotional well-being.

"I am not saying we need more and more agencies, or high-ranking professionals. And it is unfair to expect teachers to take on even more, it is not their role. I would like to see an infrastructure where people like health visitors and school nurses were trained in the rudiments of child psychiatry and psychology, and also the development of child and adolescent mental health worker posts.

"They would support other people like guidance teachers and social workers, and link between primary and secondary services. They wouldn't have to come from a healthcare background. It might be education or social work."

Surveys of secondary pupils found nearly half would not talk to anyone even about serious mental health symptoms such as hearing voices. Few felt able to confide in guidance teachers.

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