Screen children for mental illness, say experts

Test devised to identify those at risk

Schoolchildren should be screened to identify those at risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, say mental health experts.

Scientists at Cambridge University say they have devised a computer-based test which could be used by those as young as 11 years old and would reveal children with ‘low resilience’ who are more likely to develop mental illness in later life, according to reports.

Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge University and lead author of the report, said testing children in this way could help health authorities to intervene early and offer therapy to prevent conditions from becoming more serious.

According to the Daily Mail, Professor Sahakian said: “When you think that the burden of mental illness is more than cancer, more than heart disease - so why on earth don't we try to do something more proactive?

“Why are we not doing anything to pick it up early? To me it's a no-brainer.”

The test involves a computer assessment designed to gauge how children process emotional information. It includes asking whether certain words, such as ‘joyful’ or ‘failure’, are positive, negative or neutral.

Other experts have cautioned, however, that identifying certain children as being at ‘high risk’ of mental illness could have negative consequences.

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