At least one quarter of the world’s population is under 18. Government sponsored surveys in the developed world indicate that up to 14% of all people under 18 have a serious mental disorder that may afflict them all their life. Mental illness not just a personal problem. It affects families, schools, communities, education and nations. The economic losses arising from mental illness are almost beyond comprehension, perhaps 5-10% of the world’s GDP. On a personal level, teachers know only too well the damaging effect a single seriously disruptive child can have on everyone.
In the developed world, schools have become good at understanding and helping students with developmental and behavioural problems. Research, however, shows that some 5% of all young people suffer from undiagnosed, serious mental health disorders, particularly emotional or depressive ones. If detected and treated in time, most of these young people will benefit significantly. Neglected, disorders may progress to disruptive behaviour, chronic mental and physical illness, alcoholism, drug addiction or self-harm.
The SDQ (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), developed by British child psychiatrist Professor Robert Goodman, is the world’s most used instrument for assessing mental health status for people under 18. Since 1998, over 4000 clinical and academic studies have been based on the SDQ and over 5 million assessments of young people have been carried out on one website alone. The SDQ takes 3-10 minutes to complete, can be administered by non-clinical staff and is available in over 75 languages. The SDQ will detect symptoms in most of those who have serious mental health disorders.
We believe that the annual administration of the SDQ is most practical single step that schools can take to quantify and categorise the mental health of their student body. For students who otherwise may remain undetected until their problems escalate out of control, the SDQ may be the most important thing that happens to them in your school. For schools, the SDQ is the opportunity to be seen at the forefront of pastoral care while improving student performance and enhancing the overall educational experience. The SDQ also is a powerful mechanism for schools to quantify and support requests for funding.