Thursday 14 January 2016

Mental health champions are being tried out in Sheffield schools with the aim of transforming emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people.

Research has shown teenagers’ mental health can be put at risk in numerous ways, often leading to stress-related illnesses such as, depression, eating disorders and self-harm.

In response to these issues the Department for Education, working with NHS England, has earmarked £3.2m of funding to 22 pilot areas – of which Sheffield is one – to help promote the emotional health wellbeing of pupils.

This funding comes just a month after Sheffield children’s services was awarded just over £1m of funding to transform children’s mental health services through the Future in Mind project.

On top of this, Sheffield is also one of only five places nationally to be selected to pilot a study addressing the mental health needs of the most vulnerable young people in schools

Sheffield City Council and the city’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are working in partnership with Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and 10 primary and secondary schools. The programme will raise awareness and improve knowledge of mental health issues amongst school staff while also improving understanding by services of specific mental health and well-being issues within schools. Each school will work with a designated CAMHS clinician to develop whole school approaches to best support young people’s mental health.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families said: “Mental health is often the poor relation when it comes to funding because we often find it difficult to talk about or to deal with. But sadly it is a problem in our society and a growing one affecting our children and young people, who are exposed to far more pressures than ever before.

“Studies show that one in 10 young people will suffer from some form of mental health concern in their adolescence – and we cannot ignore statistics like this. This means we need to put measures in place to deal with mental health issues in children and young people before they become more seriousness and much more difficult to deal with later in life.

“I welcome this funding and the partnership working we are pioneering here in Sheffield. Together we can significantly improve the care and experience we offer to children and young people with mental health problems.”

Dr Karen O’Connor from NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are delighted to have secured this additional resource which forms part of our work to transform emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people. This project will enable us to strengthen relationships between schools and mental health services and improve our early intervention work.”

The aim of the pilot is to create stronger working relationships between schools and CAMHS with each learning from the other. The intention is that the mental health champion at the school will form a relationship with a contact in their local NHS children’s and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) and together they will work to ensure school pupils receive appropriate support and management when it comes to mental health.

Lesley Bowes, Headteacher at King Ecgbert School, one of the pilot schools, said: “Schools are seeing a changing need for pupils in terms of access to mental health professionals. So it is great for us to be working with our partners in Sheffield to develop stronger and better links to access mental health services and for us to get a better understanding of needs, so we can help our young people.”

Notes to Editors:

The 10 schools involved in the pilot scheme will all complete mental health audits in the coming weeks to best understand the needs of specific school communities and this will help inform the development of further specialist training in schools, development of PSHE materials and support to young people. Parents will also be invited to take part in this. The long term plan is to offer the successful parts of the pilot to other schools in Sheffield.

Secondary schools:

Forge Valley
King Ecgbert
Newfield School

Primary schools:

Wisewood Community
Nether Edge
Valley Park
Lydgate Juniors