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Depression has become one of the public health issues in the contemporary society but more profound concern is that the problem first finding its presence among children. For example, Lavigne et al. (2014) reported that one in every four young children is more likely to suffer depression before reaching nineteen years of age. So often, signs like low mood, sadness, irritation, dumpiness, lack of interests and feelings of exhaustion and tiredness have become common with the modern children (Samek et al., 2016). On the other hand, studies have indicated that modern childhoods have become highly prone to stress and as such, could be attributed to such factors as the inherent pressures from the social media, cyber-bullying, the rise in family breakdowns, school testing among other factors (Lavigne et al., 2014). However, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended that to some extent, the responsibility lies with schools and doctors. As such, make concerted efforts in identifying the individual children suffering depression as well as providing the necessary information so that the children can understand and prevent the mental health condition (National Institution for Health and Care Excellence, 2017). Despite the problem, schools in the UK have intervention programs for helping with depression while the government, through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) programs have also intervened in the depression cases in the country.
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The extent of the problem
Various factors that been attributed to child’s mental health and one of such is bullying. The United Kingdom bares this problem to greater folds, especially as bullying manifests in primary and secondary schools. Studies conducted by the Mental Health of Young People in Great Britain in 2004 for instance, reported that one in every ten children who are aged between five and sixteen are linked to mental health problems (Green et al., 2005). The study confirmed that bullying has a detrimental effect on the child’s mental health. Another contributing factor for depression among children is social media as its popularity has grown with the younger generation. For example, Mobile Life Report documented that on average, 51% of the ten year-olds in comparison to 91% of twelve-year olds currently own mobile phone devices (Mobile Life Report, 2006). Social media has led to cyberbullying, which is defined as the type of bullying taking place of the internet or phone-mediated (Smith et al., 2008). Social media use has brought profound challenge to teachers since they have to address or deal with bullying cases that are not taking place within the school environment. Instead, they are faced with the problem of bullying cases beyond the school premises. Bullying puts major challenge or stress on children because as they are exposed to torment from their peers, they choose not to disclose the problem with adults, either speaking to their peers or keeping to themselves (Slonje et.al., 2007). Hence, bullying takes place without the adults being aware of the ordeal and eventually, it gets out of hand and exposes children to greater levels of depression.
Another causal factor to child depression is the home environmental and the lifestyle in the family. For example, report from the Mental Health Foundation stated that a child’s mental well-being is dependent on regular exercise and balanced diet or healthy lifestyle (Mental Health Foundation, 2017). Between 2013 and 2014, around 17% of children in the UK were reported to be living under dire poverty (Bradshaw, 2016). Accordingly, Hirsch (2013) stated that poverty exposes children to suffer the consequences of psychological deprivations and as such, cuts them from full participation in the society. An excellent example is how the parents from the low-income communities being unable to provide and afford for school upkeep for the children including trips or supporting their children to go on trips with their friends. The situation affects or undermines the child’s social interactions thus they are uninvolved in most of the social interactions and participations. In confirming the above exploration, Bradshaw (2016) indicated that research has linked poverty with depression.
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Measures taken to address depression among young children
Before outlining some of the measures that the government and schools have put in place to address depression among children, a deeper understanding of the concept is imperative. Accordingly, Eckshtain et al. (2015) defines depression as the mental state of sad feeling, coupled by disinterest in activities, lack of emotion, causes by physical and emotional activities that impairs the ability of an individual to function properly at home, school or work. For younger children, their feelings of sadness and depression equally affect the way they behave and act. Due to depression and behavioural changes, it may lead to serious difficulties at school and home, why equally affects the relationships they have with friends and families (Eckshtain et al., 2015). To the extreme, depression can drive children to engage in risky behaviours like harming themselves, missing school, drug abuse, and risky sexual relationships and if care is not taken, they may contemplate suicide (Cummings et al., 2014). In addition, when children are exposed to the extreme ends of depression, it may lead to the development of psychotic symptoms, including observable changes like unpleasant and unusual thoughts or experiences in hearing voices.
School Intervention to Child Depression
In most of the schools, they are currently identifying methods and mechanisms for assessing children and determining their mental health needs. In essence, multiple-gated screening systems are currently being implemented in schools (Stallard, 2010). As such, schools screen children by administering assessments to specific groups, and from this, mental health professionals process the data and as such, interpreting the information to determine groups of children in need of intervention. From this, the screening is used in determining which children correspond to the specific interventions. Nonetheless, schools are currently using various methods in determining the students who can benefit from the intervention plans and some of the commonly used approaches include functional behavioural assessment and systematic screening. However, Shanahan et al. (2014) recommend that the use of screening in schools should be done under professionals, and that informed consent should be sought from the parents. As such, Avenevoli et al. (2015) confirm that through proper screening of students, as common in most schools, they provide useful information upon which schools can act on in identifying and supporting children with depression.
In the UK for instance, The UK’s Faculty of Health is working closely with schools in implementing School Mental Health Promotion programs, all based on evidence-based knowledge (Faculty of Public Health, 2017). In most schools, the programs are provided on the basis that they can help in mitigating some of the negative consequences of suboptimal parental while equally focused on supporting health programmes within schools like reducing alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, the intervention programmes for depression in the UK’s schools are equally integrating parental support while profoundly they also depend on the universal approaches in optimizing school-based intervention mechanisms for reducing depression among children. Most of the programs in the UK’s schools are based on classroom intervention of which they are aimed at improving children’s skills like emotional literacy, efficacy in conflict resolution as well as relationship building by applying manualised approaches (Faculty of Public Health, 2017). Some of the most effective programs include whole-class, games and small group works. In addition, bullying prevention programmes are equally implemented by the schools, with the aim of changing the school ethos while developing zero tolerance policies, one of the examples being the Olweus Anti-Bullying programme (Faculty of Public Health, 2017). Equally, schools in the UK have developed the behavioural management programmes to help younger children with depression, more so with teachers trained on how to implement behavioural management approaches of which they offer rewards for good behaviours among children. An example of such a program is The Good Behaviour Game found in most schools (Faculty of Public Health, 2017). Finally, whole-school based approaches are equally in use, of which the focus is on changing the school ethos, classroom teaching, peer support and conflict management (Faculty of Public Health, 2017). Such programmes involve parents and as such, parental support is included in the intervention against depression among students.
The school-based approaches finds basis from the theoretical justifications that support mental health promotion programmes (Gini and Espelage, 2014. The approach has been espoused since time immemorial, finding origin from the Plato’s Republic of which he commended the importance of the school environment in fostering positive social development (Collins et al., 2014). In addition, school-based intervention approaches in the UK are based on the necessity of promoting mental health programmes by focusing on vital constructs like emotional and social skills, social inclusion, positive behaviour, good citizenry and effective problem solving (Shoshani and Steinmetz, 2014). In addition, Wasserman (2015) supports the mental health promotional programs by basing the assertion on the report that indicated that any school that implements emotional learning program improves percentile in the standardised test scores.
Government Intervention to Child Obesity
The UK government equally recognizes that depression and mental health problems among younger children is a great national health concern. In light of such concerns, it is currently working with the CAHMS program, or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services under the National Health Service in assessing and treating young people who have behavioural, emotional and health difficulties (NHS, 2017). CAMHS is a service and a program covering major mental health problems or issues like depression, abuse, violence, anger, self-harm anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar and food disorders. In addition, the services are spread within the country, and local CAMHS under the NHS comprise therapists, nurses, psychologists, social and support workers, as well as other counselling professionals. The program operates by having children referred by their teachers, parents for assessment to determine the extent of help one needs for depression. On the other hand, CAMHS follows an integrated approach in addressing depression among children. Particularly, it works with families in supporting younger children to overcome challenges and problems with depression. The government also offers online social networking programmes to aid families to address and overcome child depression (Rice, 2014) and as such, collaborating with parents and schools to improve mental health among young children (Jacka and Reavley, 2014).
In summary, the paper has discussed and outlined the grave problem of depression among children. The reports indicate that depression has become a major issue of grave implications. For example, with the increased use of internet and social media, cyberbulling has exposed children to more bullying. Other causal factors include the socio-economic elements of which children from lower income are more prone to depression. Despite the challenge, schools and the government in the UK have introduced incentives for helping with child depression. In most schools, they screen children and determine the extent of help or stages of depression from which intervention programs are implemented to reduce depression. The government through the CAMHS program ensures support to families and schools in providing therapy and programmes for improving mental well-being among children.
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