Mental Health support in schools doesn’t go far enough

Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston Pic credit: Chris McAndrew

Earlier this month, the Education Secretary Damien Hinds announced a £9.3m for an early intervention programme in schools to help teachers work more closely with the NHS.

A 4-year roll-out will begin in September to offer a lead member of staff from schools, colleges and alternative provisions will receive two-day mental health training workshops with NHS staff.

I welcome any improvement in joined up mental health support for young people, especially early intervention measures, but the scale of the problem demands a much more ambitious approach than this.

A recent report by action for Children found the UK was “sleepwalking into a crisis of childhood” with youngsters struggling to cope with wider anxieties over issues such as Brexit, poverty and climate change.

Diagnosing the problem is only the first step; we then need the services to fix it. But decades of under investment in mental health services has meant less than a third of children with a mental health problem are accessing treatment and support.

Those that do face waiting times over a year and young people in Bedford must very often travel outside Bedford to access them more specialist services.

Many schools already have great mental health awareness initiatives despite cuts to school funding in these areas, but teachers who are already overworked should not be expected to take on the additional role of diagnosing mental health issues.

We were promised parity of esteem for physical and mental health – we wouldn’t ask a teacher to diagnose a broken leg.

If the Government are serious about introducing preventative measures they would fund schools properly for this extra pastoral service and ensure every school had a qualified mental health professional.

And they’d fund Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services adequately, so children don’t become life threateningly ill while waiting so long for an appointment.

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