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Methods for assessing the mental health needs of young people who have experienced abuse and neglect

Last updated: 17 Jan 2022 Topics: News
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New research study funded by the NSPCC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) published

Queen's University Belfast has published a new research study, jointly funded by the NSPCC and the ESRC, exploring what can be done to improve the recognition and understanding of the mental health needs of young people who have experienced abuse and neglect.1

The study, published in Child Abuse Review, looks at whether mental health symptoms could be reliably assessed outside of a clinical setting. Staff in voluntary sector organisations used short standardised instruments to screen for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety symptoms in a group of 141 young people attending two support services in Northern Ireland.

Nearly three quarters (72.3%) of participants showed signs of possible post-traumatic stress. Those young people often had experiences of child protection, or had experienced bereavement or loss. Many also had previous contact with mental health services. Around half the sample number also showed signs of anxiety or depression.

The study showed that staff were successful in reliably measuring symptoms in up to three quarters of the cases that were followed up with a clinical assessment. The study also highlights the important role that social care and voluntary sector services play in recognising post-traumatic stress in young people who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Read the full study paper

Further resources

Want to learn more about how to best support children with mental health needs? Our free resource covers how to recognise the signs that a child might be struggling and how to respond appropriately.


Access the resource


You can also contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing Our child protection specialists will talk through your concerns with you and give you expert advice.