Every secondary school in the country should receive funding to provide compulsory independent mental health counselling to pupils, the body representing local authorities has said.
The Local Government Association said that access to counselling should be made mandatory, amid growing concerns that children and young people are being forced to wait up to 18 months before receiving support.
The goverment has promised to invest £1.7 billion in mental health and wellbeing services for children and young people.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said 5 per cent of this funding – £90 million – should be set aside to make it mandatory for every student in secondary and alternative education provision to have access to on-site counselling services.
Mental health support
According to the LGA, 19,000 children were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 – a 14 per cent increase over three years. It said that between 70-75 per cent of young people experiencing a mental health problem are currently not able to access any treatment, because of a lack of early intervention services and stigma around asking for help.
The LGA said that evidence shows on-site independent counselling services reduce psychological stress in pupils, while also improving behaviour and educational achievements.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: “No child or young adult should have to wait 18 months for vital support and guidance. Many young people might not have needed formal social care support if they had received the early help they needed.
“Providing just a small proportion of the funding it is spending on mental health support nationally to ensure every school provides on-site counselling, is one way the government can ensure every child and young person enjoys the bright future they deserve."
He added: “Mental health problems are very common and not something children should feel ashamed about. Good emotional health and wellbeing is also about learning to be resilient to life’s setbacks and negative emotions."