Millions more children and young people will have access to significantly expanded mental health services, backed by £79 million.
Young people have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, with NHS research suggesting one in six may now have a mental health problem, up from one in nine in 2017.
The number of mental health support teams in schools and colleges will grow from 59 to 400 by April 2023, supporting nearly three million children. Mental health support teams work in a variety of ways, including enabling children to text their local mental health support team, with a health professional responding within an hour during the school day offering them advice, or providing families with tips on how to spot that the children and young people are struggling with their mental health.
The teams also help staff within schools and colleges to provide a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing through training sessions for parents or workshops for teachers.
Throughout the pandemic, these teams have continued to work virtually, providing vital support for young people during lockdown. Schools have hailed their success in supporting both students and staff. In Kent, teams have provided 20-minute telephone counselling sessions for parents struggling with the competing demands of life under lockdown, alongside virtual drop-in sessions for school staff on how to support children with their mental health.
Access to community mental health services will also be expanded, giving 22,500 more children and young people access to help and support by 2021 to 2022 – including talking therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy.
This accelerates the commitment to expand services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which will see an additional 345,000 more children and young people access mental health services by 2024.
As we near step one of the roadmap, with schools returning from Monday, the government has expanded the support available to children and young people who may be suffering from poor mental health as a result of, or exacerbated by, the pandemic.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
Children and young people facing a mental health crisis will continue to get support through 24/7 crisis lines and will benefit from additional funding to support follow-up crisis treatment at home where necessary.
Eating disorder services for conditions like anorexia and bulimia will also be accessible to an additional 2,000 children and young people in the community. This follows NHS England’s plans to expand rapid access to specialist NHS treatment for young people with eating disorders across England, aiming to contact patients within 48 hours and beginning treatment as soon as 2 weeks later.
Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Nadine Dorries added:
Children and young people’s mental health services have remained open throughout the pandemic, adapting to deliver services remotely where appropriate.
NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch said:
To help children and young people, their parents and carers manage their mental wellbeing, deal with stress and tackle issues like anxiety and uncertainty, Public Health England has a series of dedicated resources on the Every Mind Matters website.
This includes tips on self care and dealing with change.
Dr Alex George, government’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador, said:
Education staff will be supported to respond to the emotional and mental health pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a result of COVID-19 as they return to school by the Wellbeing for Education Return programme backed by £8 million, and free online psychological training modules on how to provide practical and emotional support to children and young people affected by emergencies or crisis situations.
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