Mental health: seven government measures to improve pupils' wellbeing

9th January 2017 at 14:29
mental health plans
Ministers' strategy includes mental health first-aid training for teachers, peer mentoring and an initiative to tackle stigma

Theresa May set out her vision for a "shared society" with a speech at the Charity Commission today, saying she will ensure that children get the "help and support they need and deserve".

The prime minister said she wants to see an increased role for the state in addressing “burning injustices” and she begun by laying out her proposals for transforming mental health care in Britain, including more support for children’s wellbeing in schools.

The government provided more details on its plans in a document published today, as a response to recommendations to a mental health taskforce chaired by Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind. These include:

  1. Making mental health first-aid training available to all secondary schools, with the aim of having trained at least one teacher in every secondary school by 2019;
  2. Evaluating different approaches which schools can use to prevent mental ill-health;
  3. Launching a pilot programme on peer support for young people in schools and online;
  4. Publishing a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health later this year;
  5. Making an investment of £20 million in the Time to Change anti-stigma programme, which will focus on improving the attitudes of young people towards mental health and reaching 1.75 million young people by 2020;
  6. Reporting on the prevalance of mental health conditions in children and young people. A survey will be carried out in this year and is due to report in 2018; the last survey on mental health conditions in children was in 2004. It will include information on issues such as eating disorders, cyberbullying and social media;
  7. Asking the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted to look into how to assess whether health and education systems are working together on the issue, perhaps through joint inspections on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The equivalent of three pupils in every classroom suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said today.

'Schools can't address this issue alone'

Earlier this year, the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, called for counselling to be provided in all schools in England, as it is in Wales.

The plans announced today have been cautiously welcomed by teaching unions, which have also said that funding cuts have taken a toll on the support available to children.

"Often teachers can be the first to spot signs of mental distress among their pupils and schools do have an important role to play in improving provision and support for children and young people," said Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union.

"However, schools cannot address this issue alone and cuts to budgets and services in local authorities, health and education have all taken a heavy toll on the support available to children suffering mental health issues."

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