Childhood survey and later mental health

A childhood survey could help to identify young people who may experience psychiatric problems in later life. This is according to a new study conducted at the University of Helsinki, which found an assessment on the mental health of eight-year-olds can highlight those who may need extra treatment in their teenage years or early adulthood.

David Gyllenberg, whose doctoral dissertation on the subject was publicly examined at the learning institute - which is home to around 4,000 researchers and teachers - noted that while early detection is vital, the bringing in of checkups as part of school healthcare programmes can be problematic.

Dr Gyllenberg explained any screening of this type would need to use sex-specific criteria, while also not leading to stigmatisation.

He said any systematic mental health tests need to be considered carefully and be based on a solid scientific foundation, adding: "However, in order to prevent children's and young people's severe mental disorders, we should be able to identify those at risk in time."

Dr Olwen Wilson, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Briefly I would comment that early identification of possible mental health problems in early adulthood is always advantageous in that it enables parents and teachers to seek appropriate advice on how to keep these young people mentally healthy. 

"Children's emotional wellbeing and personality development is influenced not only by their genetic endowment but also by many different issues in their learning and social environment which can be sensitively adapted if a set of warning signs can be flagged up early for individual youngsters at risk of mental health problems."