A report by the Connecticut-based Center for Children’s Advocacy reveals that early warning signs of mental and behavioral health problems are often not identified until middle school years, but could be uncovered much earlier.
In any given year, the report noted that “about one out of every five Connecticut children (87,500 to 125,000) struggles with a mental health condition or substance abuse problem. More than half receive no treatment.”
With a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, Dr. Andrea Spencer, dean of the School of Education at Pace University and educational consultant to the Center for Children’s Advocacy, examined children’s educational records to identify how early these warning signs appear.
The report, issued in September 2012, documents the direct link between undiagnosed and unaddressed mental health issues with increases in school suspensions, expulsions and entry into the state’s juvenile justice system. It also noted that:
- Over 70% of students diagnosed with mental illness and behavioral health problems by middle school exhibited warning signs by second grade.
- Almost 25% exhibited red flags during pre-Kindergarten years.
“Red flags for mental and behavioral health problems are often clear before the end of second grade,” said Dr. Spencer. “It is imperative that we improve screening and identification so support for these children can be provided before their academic careers are at risk.”