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New tool for child mental health

Researchers at King’s College London have developed a new tool that allows children dealing with mental health difficulties to record how they are feeling and describe what is important to them.

child mental healthThe tool, PSYCHLOPS Kids, is the first to capture a child’s perspective on their own mental health rather than that of a professional. The Psychological Outcome Profiles (PSYCHLOPS) is a unique user-generated, psychometric tool where individuals are given a series of questions and are asked to score them based on what they feel is important to them and what isn’t. The children’s version of this tool has been adapted from the adult PSYCHLOPS questionnaire, which has been used in conflict settings including Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon and East Africa.

Dr Emma Godfrey, lead author and Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology, King’s College London, said:

This tool could prove extremely useful as we’ve found that it helps children with mental health problems express themselves more fully. It also allows us to capture information about areas that aren’t currently assessed by other expert designed measures, such as bullying, family problems and school issues.

Working with the UK charity Roundabout, the researchers collaborated with drama therapists to develop the tool. Using a dramatherapy setting in schools, 132 children aged between 7-13 years of age with mental health difficulties were given some short questions about what concerned them most and how they were feeling. They were then asked to score the questions on a scale of 0 to 4 indicating ‘not at all’ through to ‘very much’. The questions were designed with children in mind and included emoticon faces and space to allow children to express themselves creatively.

Following the questionnaire, the researchers found that dramatherapy was an effective form of therapeutic mental health intervention and that there was a higher responsiveness to change on PSYCHLOPS when compared with other standardised health measures.

The researchers are now looking to trial the tool within NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to further look at its reliability and validity and analyse children’s responses qualitatively, so that the measure can be used widely with confidence.

They are currently using a translated version of PSYCHLOPS Kids to assess a phone-delivered psychological intervention for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. 

The King’s Health Partners Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinical Academic Group includes local, national, specialist outpatient and inpatient services.