The pandemic has undoubtedly affected the mental health of children – who have missed months of schooling – and this is to be addressed by NHS mental health services.
Around 400 mental health support teams are to offer support to 3,000 schools in England, offering support to almost three million pupils, by 2023.
The roll-out represents a dramatic acceleration of the programme announced in the NHS Long Term Plan, funded from £79 million to boost mental health support for children and young people in England, which is part of £500 million Government pot for investment in mental health services.
Experts hope 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.
The NHS Long Term Plan intensified progress in investment in young people’s mental health services delivered over the past decade, with funding for these services set to rise faster than both overall mental health spending and total NHS funding increases, every year.
Referrals to the teams can be made by teachers or GPs as well as by the young person themselves via the texting service they have established.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: “Coronavirus has taken its toll on us all, not least children who have been stuck at home unable to see their friends and without the routine of school life.
“So it’s an urgent necessity to expand services as we are doing, after what will have been for many a year of turmoil.
“Increasing investment in mental health services, particularly for children and young people, is a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan but we are now going even further and faster, because offering help and support early, before problems get worse, can sometimes prevent problems persisting into adulthood.”
Mental health problems among five to 16-year-olds in England have risen from one in 10 in 2017 to around one in six last summer.
More than one in four children has had trouble sleeping while one in 10 often or always felt lonely during the pandemic, according to one recent study.
Claire Murdoch, mental health director for NHS England, said: “Children have had their normal routines turned upside down during the pandemic whether it is curbs on their social life, school or their hobbies, and so it is only right that the NHS accelerates its mental health support for young people.
“As children have returned to the classroom, dedicated NHS mental health support teams will be in place at 3,000 schools across the country ready to listen to any anxieties they may have and I would urge everyone whether you’re a teacher, parent or child to access this help before any issues escalate.”
Experts in the teams will offer children one-to-one and group therapy sessions while helping to improve the whole school’s awareness of mental health through training sessions for parents and workshops for teachers.
There are now over 280 mental health support teams set up or in training. 183 teams are operational and ready to support children and young people in around 3,000 schools and colleges, covering 15 per cent of pupils in England. A further 103 teams are in development with more to be commissioned this year, which will deliver the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to reach 20 – 25 per cent of pupils a year early (2022). 35 per cent of pupils in England are expected to have access to a mental health support team by 2023.
The first 59 teams began work last March but had to swiftly adapt to provide help during lockdown.
The acceleration of mental health support teams in schools is only one part of a wider package of NHS support that will be on offer to children and young people as they come to terms with the impact of the pandemic and lockdown.
The NHS has introduced 24/7 crisis support lines, face to face, telephone or digital appointments so issues can be identified, and help given sooner.
The government’s £79 million boost to children and young people’s mental health will also enable around 22,500 more children and young people to access community health services in 21/22 and around 2,000 more children and young people to access eating disorder services in 21/22.
This funding is in addition to the significant funding already committed to mental health services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan which will see a further 345,000 children and young people access mental health services by 2024.
The NHS is also urging parents and carers to be alert to signs that their children may be experiencing anxiety or low mood as they return to school.
If your child is facing a mental health crisis, contact your local 24/7 NHS helpline.
Please share post:
Follow us on