Schools must not be left to pick up the pieces when the mental-health system is too poorly funded to cope, experts are urging.
Their warning comes after a senior judge attacked the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) when a suitable bed could not be found for a suicidal 17-year-old girl.
Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the high court, said that the possibility that the girl, known as Patient X, would be released due to bed shortages would leave “blood on our hands”.
The case comes as many schools are reporting a rise in the number of pupils experiencing mental health problems, but are struggling to refer them to mental health services.
Ged Flynn, chief executive of teen-suicide prevention charity Papyrus, said: “We’re hearing every day from teachers and families at their wits’ end.
“We’re hearing time and time again that the threshold that people in schools are trying to hold is incredibly high, and beyond people’s resources.
“Children and young people in crisis are being let down, significantly,” said: “The crisis is now; it’s happening under our noses.”
'Real medical needs'
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We’re talking about the need to be able to refer on someone with real medical needs.
“You wouldn’t expect us to deal with someone with serious physical problems.”
And Marc Bush, chief policy advisor at mental-health charity YoungMinds, says he often hears from pupils struggling to access support from Camhs.
“While schools shouldn’t be expected to pick up the pieces left by inadequate mental health services, they do have a crucial role to play in helping young people develop the skills they need to cope in today’s world, and in identifying problems when they first emerge,” he said.
“That’s why the government must rebalance the education system, to give all schools the recognition and resources they need to make wellbeing a priority.”
The Department for Education has said that it has provided funding to help schools teach about mental health.
A spokesperson said: “No child should suffer alone from mental health issues. That’s why we are investing an additional £1.4 billion in NHS mental-health services, to ensure all children get the help and support they need.
“We are strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental-health staff, and have announced plans for every secondary school to be offered mental-health first-aid training. Later this year, we will publish a green paper with proposals for further improving mental-health services.”