Young people are being let down on mental health

A recent survey of headteachers reveals worrying shortfalls in the treatment of their students’ mental health.

A survey of headteachers, the first of its kind, has found significant gaps in the “critical” treatment of their pupils’ mental health needs.

The survey, conducted by the CentreForum thinktank’s mental health commission, found that headteachers at more than half of schools in England believe the referral system for sending their pupils to child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) is not working. Experts say it is vital to identify pupils who need support with mental health issues early on.

“The results of this survey suggest schools and young people are often let down and left to fend for themselves,” said Paul Burstow MP, chair of the commission, who warned that, on average, about three children in every classroom would experience mental health problems. “With a price tag of up to £60,000 per child per year, the life-long impact of mental illness on young people and their families is something we can’t afford to ignore.”

Demand for mental health services among the young is increasing. Economic pressures, parental separation and the impact of social media are all cited by headteachers as factors behind the rise in behavioural and emotional problems among pupils.

But when schools in England do refer pupils to mental health services because their needs are considered too complex to be managed “inhouse”, more than half, 54%, report that the referral system is ineffective.

The findings confirm concerns raised in the commission’s final report, published earlier this year, which concluded: “Schools cannot be expected to do it all, yet many hea teachers are feeling unsupported by Camhs. It appears the relationship betweeen schools and Camhs is flawed in some areas or the country in terms of access, communication and follow up.”

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