More than 2.4 million children and young people now have access to mental health support in schools and colleges as the NHS fast tracking services are aiming to help tackle record demand.
A record 650,000 children and young people were in contact with mental NHS health services over the last year, compared to 534,000 before the COVID pandemic.
However, NHS mental health support teams are now in place in around 4,700 schools and colleges across the country, with 287 expert teams offering support to children experiencing anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues.
A further 112 teams are in training and will start over the next year, with an additional 104 new teams starting their training in 2022/23, taking the total to more than 500 across the country.
Speaking during a visit to Richard Challoner School in Surrey to see how an NHS mental health team have supported children throughout the disruption of the last two years, the head of mental health care in England, Claire Murdoch, said the services will provide a “lifeline for many young people who are struggling and need some help”.
She said: “Children’s lives have faced enormous disruption over the last two years which is why NHS staff and partners have worked flat out to fast track the roll out of hundreds of mental health teams in schools and offer support to millions of pupils, a year ahead of schedule.
“NHS mental health support teams are now in place in around 4,700 schools and colleges across the country ready to listen to any anxieties or issues children may have and I would urge everyone, whether you’re a teacher, parent or child, to access this help before any issues escalate.”
‘It’s important young people can access support as early as possible’
Experts are hoping that by intervening early they can prevent problems escalating into serious mental health issues, with health chiefs warning that the isolation and upheaval of the pandemic can be compounded by factors like pressure experienced on social media platforms.
A Year 10 student at Richard Chancellor school, who has been helped by the scheme, said: “I found the sessions really useful and it made me think about ways I can help myself to feel better about everything and improve my mood.”
One of his parents, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We were so grateful for the timely support and the quality preventative input it provided.
“Our son was really struggling, and the regular support enabled him to learn simple and practical strategies and tactics to be able to improve his wellbeing and his mental health in both the immediate challenges he was facing at school and help him to have a better perspective for his future.”
Minister for mental health, Gillian Keegan, said: “The last two years have been particularly challenging for children and young people so it’s important they can access support as early as possible.
“Our investment is paying off – the £79 million we have provided has allowed the NHS to accelerate the rollout of Mental Health Support Teams and expanded community services so tens of thousands more children can get help.”