Britain to start large-scale study in mental health of school kids

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Up to 370 British schools will take part in one of the largest trials in the world to find the best ways of supporting the mental health and well-being of school kids, Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced Monday.

Hundreds of children and young people will learn how to use a range of innovative techniques to promote good mental health.

The trial will involve mindfulness exercises, muscle relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help young students regulate their emotions, alongside pupil sessions with mental health experts.

The study, which will run until 2021, aims to give schools new, robust evidence about what works best for the mental health and well-being of students.

"As a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse," Hinds said.

"Schools and teachers don't have all the answers ... but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools."

Compulsory health education will be introduced in all schools, with children from primary-school age introduced gradually to issues relating to mental health, well-being and happiness.

The study will be led by the Anna Freud National Center for Children and Families (AFNCCF) in partnership with University College London.

The trials are designed to explore the impact of different approaches at school, in recognition of the important role teachers can play in recognizing changes in pupils' behavior or mood.

"I'm incredibly excited by this initiative, which will help young people better understand their mental health and identify when they need to ask for help sooner," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Pilot schemes will look at providing improved mental health assessments for children in the care system. Currently around half of all children in care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared to one-in-10 children outside the care system.

"This world-leading research ... has the potential to transform mental health promotion in schools across England. We also need to better identify the mental health needs of the most vulnerable children in society, particularly children in the care system," said Dr. Jessica Deighton from the AFNCCF.

"Every day our frontline services see children and teenagers struggling to get to grips with how they fit into the increasingly complex modern world -- contending with things like intense pressure at school, bullying or problems at home, all while being bombarded by social media," said Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children. 

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