Children and Young People’s Mental Health — The Role of Education

As the pressures on our children and young people are ever-increasing, their mental health and emotional wellbeing has never been more at risk. As they transition in to their teenage years, exams, social media and bullying all play their part. So, it was with great interest that the Health and Education Select Committees released a report on the importance of the role of schools regarding mental health. 50% of adult mental illnesses start before the age of 15 and 75% have started before 18, so it makes sense that education settings can have a significant impact on their young people.

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“Schools and colleges have a front-line role in promoting and protecting children and young people’s mental health and well-being. Education and mental health services need to work closely together to plan the most effective way of improving children and young people’s mental health and well-being.”

House of Commons (2 May 2017).

The committee believe that the school should have a more active role in helping young people with their mental health. They state the critical importance of a whole-school working approach to promote the wellbeing of young people. It is refreshing to see in the report the view that emotional wellbeing should not just be kept to PHSE lessons but rather be taught as part of the whole curriculum.

It is also the believe that a joined-up approach with local services to deliver mental health support will be beneficial in the long term. This is crucial as with the cut to public health spending, all services need to integrate more effectively to provide the correct treatment to young people.

In the report, the evidence received suggests that senior leadership teams in schools and colleges acknowledge that they are responsible for the promotion of the wellbeing but it is not afforded sufficient priority.

Workforce training is seen as crucial to the school’s role in mental health. Although teachers are not trained professionals, they have a significant role to play in identifying mental health problems and signposting the young people to the appropriate services.

This report was due to be longer with more recommendations however this was interrupted by the call for the General Election. In summary however, the Committee has realised the importance of the role schools should be playing in helping young people’s mental health. Social Sense hopes that when the new Government is formed in June that this stance will be taken, allowing a change in attitudes towards early intervention programmes in schools.

By Reece Hobson.