10 Jun 2012

Australian preschoolers to get mental health checks

2:59 pm on 10 June 2012

Australian preschoolers are set to be screened for early signs of mental illness as part of a voluntary Government-funded programme.

The Healthy Kids Check will be predominately conducted by GPs who will refer children with troubling behaviour to psychologists and paediatricians.

The ABC reports the programme will cost $A11 million over five years and is expected to identify about 27,000 children who would benefit from extra support.

The Australian Medical Association says it supports the initiative.

Its federal president Steve Hambleton says children who may have mental health problems usually start exhibiting symptoms when they turn three.

"We want to make sure that we select our children that have got real broad based problems not just individual things like fear of the dark or the fear of monsters and that sort of thing, which is normal for three year olds."

But Dr Hambleton says it is important the process does not medicalise normal behaviour.

"Things that they are looking for are autism spectrum disorder which is a broad base multi area problem, behavioural sensory and communication issues, depression and anxiety," he said.