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In brief: Support for young people attending school 'grossly inadequate'

An image of a young person holding a backpack
Scott Webb | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Report finds mental health support for children struggling to attend school is 'grossly inadequate'

A report by a committee of cross-party MPs has criticised the "grossly inadequate" mental health support for children facing difficulties attending school.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of absent children has more than doubled, with over 1.7 million children persistently absent during the 2021/2022 academic year, according to the Department for Education.

The report, issued by the Education Select Committee, accuses the government of not acting swiftly enough to reduce these numbers and expresses concern over the rising rates of children absent due to mental health.

One senior teacher warned that the high levels of school absence could potentially become a "new norm," causing long-term harm to numerous children.

The report highlights the need for urgent and substantial improvements in mental health support for these children and emphasises the detrimental impact of inadequate support on their education and well-being.

Psychological therapies shown to be effective in preventing depression relapse

A systematic review and network meta-analysis has found that psychological interventions effectively prevent depression relapse over 24 months.

The review consisted of 2,871 patients from 25 randomised controlled trials, comparing the effectiveness of various psychological therapies in preventing the relapse of depression against a placebo over 24 months.

Overall, the study found that all of the psychological therapies reviewed – mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), behavioural activation therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy – were significantly more effective than a placebo for preventing relapse.

Similarly, all of the psychological therapies were generally more effective than supportive counselling, with results remaining robust in sensitivity and subgroup analyses.

Interestingly, the psychological therapies had varying levels of effectiveness at different time points.

MBCT showed a continuous effect in preventing depression relapse, while CBT had a longer but non-continuous effect. Behavioural activation therapy and interpersonal therapy showed effectiveness later in the follow-up period.

Student mental health problems have tripled over recent years – study

A recent analysis has revealed a significant increase in reported mental health problems among university students in the UK.

The study involved 82,682 full-time undergraduate students over seven years and showed that some groups were worse affected than others, particularly women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Results highlighted a notable rise in the percentage of undergraduate students who have reported experiencing mental health issues, with figures rising from 6% to 16%. This increase has been particularly pronounced over the past year, coinciding with the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

Poor mental health has now emerged as the leading cause for students contemplating dropping out of university, with the proportion of students considering leaving studies due to financial distress having also risen, from 3.5% to 8% between 2022 and 2023.

Author of the study, Michael Sanders, said: "It's clear the experiences of mental ill-health among students are deeply unequal, and exist along much the same lines as in society at large, with those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds or who often face discrimination being most likely in general to report struggles with their mental health.

"The findings suggest further action should be taken to prevent mental health difficulties arising wherever possible, and that services are adequately resourced to support students quickly when they need help."

Vital mental health funding for refugee children and young people announced

The government has announced a £2.5 million fund aimed at assisting vulnerable young individuals and children from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong who have been compelled to leave their home countries.

The initiative is designed to support voluntary and community sector organisations in England and is currently accepting applications until November 1, 2023.

The fund will not only provide financial assistance but will also offer English language courses, employment training, and higher education support to facilitate the integration of young people into their local communities.

Jeremy Bacon, Third Sector Lead from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said:

“It’s encouraging that the psychological support needs of refugees are being recognised and that funding has been allocated for vital support services for children and young people.

“We greatly welcome this announcement and urge the government to further recognise the psychological support needs of refugees of all ages arriving in the UK seeking safety from war, violence, conflict and persecution.”

Early intervention mental health hubs for children and young people funding announced

The UK government has committed to funding a minimum of 10 early intervention mental health hubs in England, catering to individuals aged 11 to 25.

These hubs can be existing services or organisations looking to expand their current counselling offerings to include comprehensive interventions.

The funding will cover a one-year period, starting from April 2024 to 2025, with a total allocation of £3.1 million.

These mental health hubs provide easily accessible, drop-in support on a self-referral basis for young people who may not meet the threshold for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) or have emerging mental health needs, up to the age of 25.

The hubs offer a variety of support services, including group activities, youth participation projects, LGBTQ+ groups, as well as one-on-one support like counselling.

Jo Holmes, Young People and Families Policy Lead at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said the hubs will “provide more evidence, through a much-needed evaluation at the end of the funded year, to demonstrate the benefits of holding youth information, advice and counselling services under one roof."

Children of wealthier parents experienced a greater decline in mental health over the pandemic

Research suggests that wealthier children experienced a steeper decline in mental health during the pandemic.

While children's mental health worsened overall in the UK during the pandemic, those from more affluent backgrounds, with highly educated, employed parents who stayed together and had high incomes, saw sharper declines in mental health compared to their less well-off peers, who often had lower mental health to begin with.

The study, which examined data from 9,272 children as part of the UK Household Longitudinal Study, proposed various factors for this finding, including parents having to balance high-paid work with childcare and education responsibilities while schools were closed.

The researchers highlighted limitations to the study and also commented: “Our study provides evidence that trends in child mental health have continued to worsen during the pandemic.

“Unexpectedly, in many cases children from traditionally advantaged groups saw larger declines than children from disadvantaged groups – that is, child mental health has become more equal but at a worse overall level."


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