A new training programme has been launched to help school staff spot the signs of poor mental health in children.
According to recent reports, around 1 in 6 children aged 5 to 16 years are now likely to be diagnosed with a mental health issue, which is an increase of almost half since 2017.
Many of those children will have developed an issue during the pandemic, presenting a problem for school staff who may be untrained to provide appropriate mental health support.
One of the biggest problems for staff is the reliance on a child's ability to articulate their feelings properly, which may be especially difficult if the child feels embarrassed to share how they feel with someone else.
Children's charity Nip in the Bud looks to solve the issue with a new mental health awareness training course designed to help staff spot the signs of mental health issues themselves.
The aim is to ensure appropriate intervention as early as possible in order to prevent an issue worsening over time.
The programme combines the organisation's trademark mental health educational videos with case studies and visual presentations into a single package to be used as a training tool.
Films included cover a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), with plans to further expand the library of videos included.
As of 8th March, children will be returning to schools as part of the government's 'roadmap' out of lockdown.
The decision to enforce school returns at this time has split opinion, with many charities and organisations pointing to a need for improved support for pupils who may need time readjusting to school life.
Last month, the government's new mental health ambassador, Dr Alex George, suggested a flexible return approach to allow pupils time to integrate back into the classroom.
"You can't just expect... someone who is very anxious to go back to school will go back to normal," said George.
"It might be that... rather than chucking them in and exacerbating the problem, we do it gently and we gradually build up to normality."
One of Nip in the Bud's videos focuses on helping children return to school, where Dr Jess Richardson, principal clinical psychologist at Maudsley Hospital, suggests that each child will likely need a different approach.
"There's some children that were very anxious before lockdown who had previous anxiety and actually, for them, not going to school might have been a real relief and they might have really enjoyed it, and going back is going to be terrifying," says Richardson.
"For other children, their home life might have been very hard, lots of arguments, even violence, and they might be really looking forward to a bit of refuge at school."
Richardson goes on to outline several methods to help with anxiety, including listening and validating feelings, limiting reassurance, focusing on positive strategies, and trying to 'defer worries'.
“It's really important to their growth and mindset by helping them to answer their own questions," adds Richardson.
"Help other children to answer questions, help them to come up with questions of what might be worrying them… and think together and brainstorm as much as they can.”
Institutions that work with children will need to buy a license to access the materials which they can then share with staff.
To find out more about Nip in the Bud's mental health awareness course, click here.
Written by Megan Robinson
News reporter for Talking Mental Health