The role played by teachers in identifying and supporting pupils with mental illnesses is to be examined as part of a new government inquiry.
The House of Commons education select committee will be joining with the Commons health committee, to launch a new inquiry into the role of education in preventing mental-health problems among children and teenagers.
The inquiry will focus specifically on what schools and colleges can do to prevent mental-health problems from developing, and to intervene when they do. The MPs will look at how teachers can be trained to spot signs of mental illness, and to offer support where necessary.
Neil Carmichael, the chair of the education committee said: “The undoubted increase in the number of children and young people suffering from mental-health issues is extremely alarming.
“Schools and colleges have a key part to play in tackling this problem, and the committee will examine what their role should be.”
The committee will also examine the extent to which social media, cyberbullying and peer pressure are contributing to an increase in mental-health problems among pupils.
Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health committee, pointed out that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have long been underfunded. As a result, pupils are often unable to access help unless they are seriously unwell.
“Young people told us that they wanted services to be available within schools,” she said.
'Huge range of pressures'
The inquiry has been welcomed by the mental-health charity YoungMinds. Sarah Brennan, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Young people tell us about the huge range of pressures that they face, from stress at school to exam pressures, body-image worries, bullying and around-the-clock social media.
“Schools play an integral role in building the resilience of young people against these pressures. If help is available when problems first emerge, we can prevent young people reaching crisis point.”
The education and health committees are inviting written submissions on the following:
- promoting emotional wellbeing, building resilience, and establishing and protecting good mental health
- support for young people with mental health problems
- building skills for professionals
- social media and the internet
Evidence needs to be submitted by January 20 before the MPs begin their inquiry.