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Call for renewed focus on children’s mental health in schools

More support is needed to combat youth anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, say Greens

The Green Group of Councillors are urging the Council to press for greater resources to boost mental health support for children and young people at school.

Greens say that the positive work already delivered by schools and local mental health partnerships is impeded by a lack of resources and inadequate funding from central Government. 

Around 15% of 14-16 year olds in Brighton and Hove say they often have suicidal thoughts, and the number of 10-24 year olds admitted to hospital for self-harm in the city is higher than the rest of England. [1]

With child mental health a growing concern, Greens are calling on the Council to support education providers to deliver activities that help to prevent mental health problems developing early, with a particular focus on activities that can help to prevent depression and anxiety, along with providing training for staff delivering P.S.H.E education. [2]

The Conservative Government’s NHS Long Term Plan was slammed by education professionals earlier this month after it emerged that pledges for increased youth mental health support would only reach 345,000 children by 2024. Greens say the Government plans ‘ignore the immediate needs of thousands of our children.’ [3]

In a set of proposals going to a meeting of Full Council this week, Greens will urge the Council to lobby the Government to provide funding so that 100% of children and young people who require specialist care can access it when they need it.

Greens are also calling for extra support and training for school staff who respond to children directly affected by poor mental health and low self-esteem, as well as increased information sharing on how to manage the impact of other stressors, such as access to social media and use of mobile phones. Studies have shown there is a connection between mobile phone access and cyberbullying, and that reducing mobile phone access in schools can boost student concentration and lead to improved educational outcomes. Many of the city’s schools already have policies in place to manage the use of phones in the classroom. [4]

Cllr Amanda Knight, who will put forward the proposals, said:

“Support for our children and young people’s mental health must remain a priority. The rates of anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts among young people in the city continue to be deeply worrying, and mental health support can be a life-changing intervention.

“While fantastic work is underway in our city to support mental health, current central Government funding has not been able to provide the levels of support our schools need. Their current plans to reach a handful of pupils by 2030 are completely inadequate, and ignore the immediate needs of thousands of our children.

“Children and young people are also facing complex challenges to their mental health – such as the long-term use of mobile phones, navigating social media and problems such as ‘sexting’ and cyber bullying. Without advice and guidance, many of our children will struggle to deal with these issues. Child mental health services in the city have also said that anxiety has become a key issue raised by young people. Best practice in prevention, everything from meditation to support with healthy eating, physical activity and support for personal, social and health education have been proven to help. 

“Our school staff cannot be expected to pick up the burden of cuts to health services made by the Government – and as a result of budget cuts arising from changes to the national funding formula, schools are under increasing pressure. This is why I urge the Council and our family of schools to work together to focus on what prevention work is available to us.”
 



— ENDS

> Green Notice of Motion: Mental Health in Schools
 
http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00008151/AI00072350/$Item6806GrnGrpMentalHealthinSchoolsdraftv1.docxA.ps.pdf



[1] 
Brighton and Hove, Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000826/M00008125/AI00070610/$A1BrightonHoveJSNAexecutivesummaryJan2019FINALDRAFT.pdfA.ps.pdf)

[2] 
CYPS, Mental Health for Children and Young People Report, Pg 96: “Services do not have the capacity to meet current demand, leading to waits for assessments and the service model seems unable to meet the needs of complex cases.” (http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000883/M00006648/AI00056588/$Developments%20in%20Mental%20Health%20Services%20for%20Children%20and%20Young%20People_CYPS%20Committee_12%20June%202017.docxA.ps.pdf) 19 June 2017

[3] 
Schools Week: “Some Pupils will not Access New School Mental Health Services for a Decade.” (https://schoolsweek.co.uk/some-pupils-may-not-access-new-school-mental-health-services-for-a-decade/)

The National Association of Head Teachers have said that ‘…increased demand for mental health services combined with plummeting funding meant that many pupils are not receiving crucial support […] the scale and pace proposed by the green paper for vital improvements to mental health provision is simply too slow.’ 
NAHT, (https://www.naht.org.uk/news-and-opinion/press-room/naht-welcome-government-mental-health-proposals-but-caution-that-improvements-are-needed-urgently-to-fix-a-system-in-crisis/


[4]
‘Ofcom this week said the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds who reported being bullied over social media rose from 6% in 2016 to 11% last year.’ The Guardian, “Social media urged to take ‘moment to reflect’ after girl’s death”. (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/jan/30/social-media-urged-to-take-moment-to-reflect-after-girls-death) 30th Jan 2019

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