Mental health education top priority for new government-charity coalition


A coalition of government ministers, health executives and senior charity figures have met to discuss ways to deal with the impact of the pandemic on children's mental health.


The first meeting of the Mental Health Education Action Group discussed ways to improve mental health education to combat the most pressing youth mental health issues emerging over the past 12 months, including an increase in eating disorders and self harm.


In particular, the group discussed ways of increasing mental health support for young people wherever they are in their educational career, from early years settings to university.


Senior figures from several mental health charities were involved, including Mind, Place2Be, YoungMinds, and Student Minds, alongside representatives from NHS England and the Office for Students.


Topics of discussion included aiding transitions between schools and year groups, helping schools and colleges target their support funding most effectively, and even making changes to the school curriculum, most notably in how to integrate the teaching of wellbeing in classrooms.


"We know from our school-based mental health professionals that young people have been deeply affected by the pandemic," said Catherine Roche, CEO of children's mental health charity, Place2Be. "It’s therefore really positive to see the worlds of Education and Health come together at this crucial time.


"Schools are fantastic in providing easily accessible, destigmatised support for children and families, but teaching staff cannot do this alone.


"Expert support from mental health professionals will be crucial as we move forward and understand the true impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health."


Read more: £79m funding confirmed for children's mental health as school returns begin

Providing expert support will now become a possibility for far more schools and colleges across the country thanks to a newly announced £79 million investment boost.


Confirmed as part of a broader £500 million investment in mental health services, the funding for youth mental health will focus on increasing the number of mental health support teams in schools and colleges from its current total of 59, to 400 by April 2023.


The teams give professional support to pupils and their families as well as provide training for school staff to help them better support their students with their mental health.


The greater number of teams will provide mental health support for an estimated 3 million children.


The government's Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George, who was also in attendance at the action group meeting, celebrated the confirmation of the funding with his followers on Instagram:


"I am so pleased to announce that the Government has approved £79 million for youth mental health!," said George in an Instagram post.


"Of course this is just one piece of the jigsaw but god is it a step in the right direction. This funding will accelerate the roll out of Mental Health Support Teams for schools and give our incredible Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service a much needed boost in funding."


To read the full government press release of the action group meeting, click here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health