This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and to mark it, the Government has announced that thousands of children and young people will benefit from better support and expert advice in school and college.
The support is thanks to a new multi-million package of mental health support designed to help children and young people recover from the challenges of the pandemic.
Here we look at five things you may not know about mental health support in schools.
1. It’s now compulsory for all schools to teach pupils about mental health and wellbeing as part of health and relationships education
At primary school, pupils learn that mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life and why simple self-care – like getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors and with friends – is important.
At secondary school, the teaching builds on everything learned at primary school, ensuring pupils can spot the signs of common mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression in themselves or others. Young people also learn how to discuss their emotions accurately and sensitively, about the impact of alcohol and drugs on physical and mental health, and how to access professional help.
2. Many schools and colleges already have a dedicated mental health lead and/or mental health and wellbeing offer
The wellbeing and mental health support for and in schools and colleges depends on their specific local needs.
It can include counselling, educational psychologists, school nurses, pastoral care, educational welfare officers, charities, local authority provision and NHS specialist services.
The proportion of schools and colleges reporting they have a mental health lead also increased to over three quarters in 2018.
The Government is also rolling out new Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs), including new Education Mental Health Practitioner roles, to work with and in schools and colleges to provide early intervention support to pupils and students experiencing mild to moderate difficulties such as low mood and anxiety.
The teams also support participating schools and colleges to establish their whole school or college approaches and integrate with existing provision, to help pupils and students access the right support and stay in education.
3. TV doctor Alex George is a Youth Mental Health Ambassador for the government
As Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Dr Alex uses his clinical expertise and personal experience to champion government’s work on children’s mental health and shape policy on improving support for young people in schools, colleges and universities.
Dr. Alex also provides input on the issues being faced by children and young people and how this can be reflected in the tools and support teachers will need in order to provide high-quality advice and care to their students who need it, and what more could be done to ensure the mental health curriculum meets the standard children need.
4. As many as 15,000 schools received support from their local authority under Wellbeing for Education Return
Funding also includes a new £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme.
This builds on the success of the Department for Education’s Wellbeing for Education Return programme and funding. The programme has been used by more than 90% of councils since its launch last summer. It provides free, locally adapted expert training, support and resources for young people, staff or parents dealing with additional pressures from the last year – including trauma, anxiety, or grief.
5. Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million in total to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year
This is part of the Government’s commitment to offering this training to all state schools and colleges by 2025.
Training will provide senior leads with tools and skills to develop their strategic Whole School or College Approach. They will work with staff to develop their understanding of issues affecting their pupils, giving young people a voice in how their school or college addresses wellbeing, working with parents and carers, supporting staff wellbeing and monitoring pupil wellbeing where appropriate.