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20 Apr 2016

Helping raise awareness and identify causes of depression and mental health in children

As part of #DepressionAwarenessWeek we are looking into the effects that Mental Health and Depression has on young people and the stigma surrounding the illness which stems from the lack of understanding about it.

Mental illness is fast becoming an increasing issue amongst young adults and children.

1 in 10 children and young people aged between 5 and 16 suffer from a Mental Health disorder - which equates to around three children in every classroom.

In a recent BBC Panorama Documentary, we hear the story of Sara Green, a 17 year old girl who was betrayed by a mental health system designed to protect her.

After being bullied at school Sara suffered so badly from depression, and as a result of self harming ended her own life in a misjudged cry for help.

The documentary highlights what lessons can be taken from this tragedy in a bid to fix the country’s dysfunctional and broken Child and Adolescent Mental Health System.

Sara’s family tell her story in her own words, through a diary which she wrote and used to help communicate her thoughts and feelings when it was too hard to speak out loud.

When writing about being bullied Sara wrote:

"I’m not accepted in school. There’s only so many insults one person can take. I’m hated for who I am but the truth is I hate myself. I can’t believe I let them get to me like this."

Around half of children in schools are bullied. Cyber bullying is the most common medium of bullying and is a serious problem amongst students.

With over 80% regularly using mobile phones, it’s no wonder the majority are unable to escape their tormentors even after school hours. This is posing an enormous impact on children’s mental health.

It’s hard to tell from the outside who is suffering from depression, it’s not a facial expression, it can’t be seen. Many can feel like they are a burden and so are less likely to ask for help. 

Over the past ten years there has been a 68% increase in children and young people self harming, as a cry for help and a form of release.

But what can be done in order to decrease these figures and help children and young people find their voice?

The responsibility has now been put on to schools to tackle Mental Health issues before they escalate further, after last year three quarters of mental health trusts in England cut or froze their CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) teenage mental health spending.

YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people, have introduced a brand new Academic Resilience programme designed to provide support to schools, in order to help them help the mental health of their pupils. 

Some schools have also now implemented special Care Teams who provide counselling and support to students on the premises. Teachers are now also fully trained in being able to spot different changes in children’s behaviour, which may lead to the discovery of mental health problems.

But what else can be done to detect these behaviours not just offline but online too?

Social media provides a platform for sufferers to be able to express their feelings and thoughts and is the go to option when they don't feel they can speak to anyone in person.

It becomes hugely important for schools to be able to detect unusual behaviours online as well as any personal changes, in order to fully understand the situation of an individual.

To help schools see what students are potentially accessing and practicing online, organisations such as e-Safe who provide advanced endpoint monitoring and detection on school devices can help teachers and school leaders pinpoint change in behaviours by monitoring keystrokes and imagery as it is accessed. 

Content students may type or access on a device can be detected even if the individual has later deleted it, this could ultimately lead to information suggesting they need help and gives schools a chance to intervene, before like in Sara’s case, it’s too late.

To find out more information on eSafe and how we can be part of helping Safeguard children please visit our website. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t14n

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