An NHS report has revealed that badly behaving toddlers are being labelled mentally unwell – 1 in 18 preschoolers are supposedly suffering from a psychological condition.
The report was the first official study into children’s mental health since the previous one fourteen years ago. It has concluded that 5.5% of children across the country have “at least one mental disorder”. This shocked charities across the country, who comment that these results paint a “harrowing” image of suffering.
But these results were not taken at face value by many experts in the field, who have said that this report is “medicalising” disruptive behaviour. Nearly half of the characteristics describe in the report are “behavioural”, indicating that disruptive, bad behaviour is being used as a tool to determine mental illness.
The most prominent condition in these “behavioural” disorders is “oppositional defiant disorder”. The NHS website describes this as follows:
Younger children often have a type of conduct disorder called “oppositional defiant disorder”. In these children, the antisocial behaviour is less severe and often involves arguing (“opposing”) and disobeying (“defying”) the adults who look after them.
Julian Elliott, the Professor of Education at Durham University, strongly criticised the existence of this “disorder”:
We are turning everything into a mental health problem. For many of these children they don’t have a mental disorder; it’s a question of conduct. The main problem with three and four-year-olds is that they don’t do what they’re told.
Professor Tamsin Ford of Exeter Univeristy disagreed with Julian, stating that “it does affect these young people – their health is poor and their educational outcomes are poor.”
In order to be properly diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, according to the NHS guidelines, a toddler must display at least four symptoms related to things such as spite, aggression and disobedience for up to and beyond six months.
Dr Jon Goldin, vice chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated:
These figures paint a predictably harrowing picture of young people’s mental health. Particularly concerning is the rise in emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, affecting almost six per cent of all five to 15 year-olds. What makes matters worse is that we know that the services designed to treat these issues are still underfunded and under resourced. The number of child and adolescent psychiatrists has dropped by 6.9 per cent since 2014, and 60 per cent of training places for child and adolescent psychiatry are currently unfilled.
Data from the Association of Child Psychotherapists is very damning in this regard. As it claims that more than 100,000 referred to NHS mental health services have been rejected for treatment in the past two years alone. This data was published in the Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2017 report.
About Ciaran Murray
Ciaran Murray is the Founder of Sabre’s Edge Media.