Researchers are embarking on an ambitious project to see whether a child’s school record can aid early intervention techniques. The researchers hope school records can show vital clues whether a child is at risk of suicide or self-harm.
Nearly one in 10 young people self-harm or have suicidal thoughts but understanding of the causes is limited, making prevention difficult.
Anonymised school data for 180,000 10 to 17-year-olds in south London will be analysed. This will include attendance and performance, and will be linked to the child’s health and hospital records. The researchers hope to identify the most important risk factors. This will pave the way for early intervention.
The lead researcher, Rina Dutta, is a senior clinical lecturer in the psychological medicine department at King’s College London. Dutta said young people felt under more pressure than in the past, which had led to self-harm becoming almost normalised.
“We have got about three children in every state school class who will eventually have these issues,” Dutta explained.
“So I think it’s good that we’ll be able to intervene earlier”, Dutta added.
The ability to have a better picture of which schools in particular are having this issue, is key. “[Then] we can target potentially high-need schools and colleges and maybe the culture will change earlier, and we can prevent future problems.”
The data will be drawn from Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, which are all covered by South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust.
It will include potentially stressful events for children, such as starting exams and changing schools. Also included are absences and whether the child has suffered bullying/abuse.
The researchers will also have information on deprivation indicators at the schools, including the percentage of pupils receiving free school meals.