When psychiatrists go to school to care for children’s mental health: "Intolerance to discomfort is growing"

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Public institute teachers The star from Madrid were desperate two years ago because every day they encountered students with anxiety attacks whom they did not know how to help. They once had to call an ambulance. «We got to have six, seven or eight people each week for whom everything seemed like a world. It was very hard because we did not have the tools or knowledge to face these problems,” he recalls. Ignacio Diazdirector of this educational center near Retiro that teaches 750 students, many of them from the upper-middle class.

Díaz says with relief that “now the situation is very different: like night and day.” “There are still conflicts, but they have been channeled.” There are students who continue to experience exams and Selectivity with great anxiety, because parents are very demanding about their future. But the 60 Faculty teachers already “know what to do and feel safe.” What has changed?

During the last year, the institute was receiving weekly visits from a team made up of a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and a nurse specialized in child and adolescent disorders who were answering the teachers’ doubts, evaluating the students and seeing if the problems they who presented themselves had the authority to refer them to a mental health center. If so, and always with the parents’ authorization, they processed the appointments and followed up on the cases. In addition, teachers received training to know what to do in these situations. This is a pioneering project in Spain in which 56 Madrid educational centers that promote and finance the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation in collaboration with the ministries of Health y Education of the Community of Madrid.

These types of community interventions are common in countries such as USA, United Kingdom y Francewhere scientific evidence has shown that they produce good results, but in Spanish schools they do not occur, despite the fact that World Health Organization recommends providing mental health services to educational settings.

«Teachers must be taken care of so that they can take care of the students. Many of them have been overwhelmed and faced with new situations that they had never faced before,” explains the clinical psychologist. Angela Ulloa, Project Director of the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation. «We wanted to make mental health care more accessible to children and adolescents with a community intervention program, providing prevention, promotion and care in schools. The liaison team offers schools coordination with health centers, accompanies students with serious mental disorders when they return to class, and provides support to those who are already diagnosed and are being monitored. In addition, it detects cases early, evaluates students and channels appointments with health centers, which helps ensure that children do not get lost,” she says.

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