Neville Southall tackles... Youth mental health

Neville Southall tackles... Youth mental health

Neville Knows Best — In his column 'Neville Knows Best', footballing legend turned Twitter sensation Neville Southall takes on the biggest issues of our time. This week he turns to young people and mental health, and how we should all be outraged that cuts now see us failing our children.

Do we really value our children? Are we going to keep playing at looking after them? Does every child really matter?

If you look at the actions of this government, the answer is no. Theresa May and her team are cutting education to pieces: less teachers, less teaching assistants and less funding. On top of that, there is now less funding for social services and mental health services. All this adds up to a ‘Mickey Mouse’ service which nobody in these professional services wants.

When a child enters school for the first time they carry out some basic baseline tests to determine the child’s needs, the more needs the child has the bigger the pot of money the child has to follow them through their school life.

If a mental health issue arises there are several roads to go down.

First though, a teacher or parent must pick up on what is wrong and usually that takes time. Teachers and parents notice things are not quite right, temper tantrums can be just that but may also be a sign something else. It is difficult to make proper judgments so they often advise the parents go to the doctors who may have some knowledge of mental health, although they may not be experts.

Teachers liaise with the head teacher and then ask the parents in for a discussion meeting. Parents are usually guided by the school and they agree to let the child be seen by the appropriate and qualified person, or put an action plan in place for when the child is in school.

The child can wait any length of time from 6 to 18 months, and sometimes in the meantime parents and teachers try to work together to keep things under control. Maybe the doctor has prescribed some form of medication.

Medication can make a big difference as long as the dose is correct and monitored regularly. More serious issues take so long and are unfortunately costly, so everybody bar the parents are reluctant to push too hard too soon.

This is not what the child needs, the child needs to be seen straight away and some form of treatment started whether this is medication or counselling, but it needs to be put in place as soon as possible. Unfortunately this never happens because of the costs involved, it is scandalous that our children are being denied mental health help due to money.

Mental health services and social services have to take a sticking plaster approach because of cuts to funding and availability of expertise.

We need to take the first years at school as an assessment of all children as much as is possible. This would ensure each child started out with as much support as possible and their experience of education would be so much better. Also it would be cost effective.

There are so many things that put pressure on kids these days, technology is one of the biggest., bullying, sexting, grooming, drugs, just everyday communication is difficult. There are often generations in same household that have been unemployed for a lifetime and lack of perceived futures is a cause of anxieties.

There needs to be a serious look at the way education and other agencies work together to make sure every child gets what they need. I would like to see social services, mental health workers and the police work within schools instead of being called in when deemed necessary. Let’s try and be proactive and try to get to root cause of the problems straight away and stop things escalating, which they can do very quickly.

I have seen kids punch walls, windows and doors trying to contain their anger. I’ve seen kids attack staff – I was punched once in an incident.

Their language can be anything but clean, but does it really matter if that’s the way they communicate as long as we can understand what they need? If we cannot understand what they want how frustrating is it for them, no wonder they can behave in what we think is not right or proper way. There are too few experts in schools, everyone tries to help in their own way by using their own experiences and knowledge.

There are thousands if not millions of kids like this in education. Schools are drowning in a lack of funding and lack of help.

We are sitting on a ticking time bomb which is waiting to go off, we are paying now for our kids, but obviously it is not anywhere near enough and we are going to keep on paying for the rest of their lives unless we sort these problems out at the start.

An individual learning plan is put in place for each child but never a health plan and for me that is ridiculous. We must start to put the child’s wellbeing before anything else: how can a child learn if they have issues to deal with first? I see many children and if it was us in that position we would be off on the sick with stress.

Add into that the gender identity issues which are also in the schools and you have a melting pot of so many issues which schools cannot deal with all as they would like to. The Government must put in place proper help and push agencies to work from school and work closer with schools and families.


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