This week the government published a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, announcing plans to improve support for young people experiencing mental health issues. Key proposals as part of this include; training for senior designated mental health leads in schools to improve prevention, earlier access to services through the creation of new Mental Health Support Teams working in and directly with schools, and piloting of a new four week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services. £300m of funding will be made available to take the proposals forward and a consultation on the Green Paper is now taking place over the coming 13 weeks to obtain feedback from different stakeholders.

Prior to the publication of this Green Paper, the government had already committed to offering Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to every state secondary schools in England as part of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme. This government-funded initiative means that every state secondary school in England is being offered the opportunity to train a member of staff as a Youth MHFA Champion, with the programme aiming to train over 3,000 school staff by 2020.  There was also a manifesto commitment to extend this training to primary schools and we wait to hear the next steps on this.

Caroline Hounsell, Youth Lead and Director of Partnerships, Product Development and Training, MHFA England, commented, “We welcome the proposals announced in this week’s Green Paper. The strategy outlined places a much-needed emphasis on early intervention and prevention, and the training MHFA England is currently delivering as part of the government-funded Youth MHFA in Schools programme is central to these efforts.“

"Youth MHFA training ensures staff on the frontline are equipped to spot signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and signpost young people to further supports, which we're encouraged to see will be much enhanced under these new proposals. Giving school staff the skills and the knowledge to be able to intervene at an early stage is crucial to promoting recovery, supporting early management of symptoms and ultimately preventing a mental health issue having a more profound impact on a young person’s life. We now look forward to taking part in the consultation on this Green Paper to share insights from our wider work delivering Mental Health First Aid training to primary and secondary schools over the past seven years.”

Under the Government’s plans every school and college in England will be incentivised to appoint a designated senior lead for mental health to co-ordinate existing school-based support as well as helping children to access specialist therapies and other NHS treatments if they need them. Supported by a training package of up to £95 million from 2019, the senior leads will also be responsible for developing a “whole school approach” to mental health and wellbeing – including making sure pastoral support is available for all pupils and ensuring policies are in place to reduce bullying and other behaviours that impact wellbeing. 

A further £215 million will be available to create new Mental Health Support Teams which will improve join-up between schools and the NHS. The teams will provide a wider range of support and treatments in or near schools and colleges, to improve earlier intervention so mental health issues can be addressed before they become too serious. Several thousand people are expected to be recruited over the next five years to form these new teams, which could be trained to offer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based treatments in the classroom. Supervised by clinicians they will also work closely with educational psychologists, school nurses, counsellors, social workers and others to assess and refer children for other specialist treatments if necessary.

The announcement follows the Government’s manifesto commitment to a Green Paper looking at how to better support children and young people experiencing mental health issues – something Prime Minister Theresa May identified earlier this year as one of the burning injustices which holds people back from achieving their true potential.

Find out more about the Green Paper and the associated consultation here