Today, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week it was announced that Britain’s primary schools are facing a mental health crisis. Figures show that the number of children needing NHS counselling has risen by a third.
The report, by the NSPCC, states that children as young as three were referred to professionals by their teachers. It also states that the number of under-11s needing psychological help rose to almost 19,000 in the past year, from less than 14,000 just three years earlier.
Overall, the number of referrals to mental health services by all schools rose by almost 10,000 (from 25,140 in 2014/15) to 34,757 in 2017/18.
What I find incredibly shocking is that more than HALF of these were for primary school children, with experts warning that this suggested that there was not enough helpfor the youngest children available in school.
To illustrate this point the report found that, over the last three years, nearly a third of referrals from schools to the 45 trusts which responded to this question were declined treatment as they did not meet the criteria for support.
I read a report, in April this year, by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). Where one teacher told the union: “Access to mental health services is appalling for young children – a young child climbing onto a roof and saying they wanted to kill themselves (aged eight) was not deemed serious enough to get CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] support.”
The NSPCC, which carried out the survey of 53 NHS trusts, warned that the increased demand for support across specialist mental health services, schools and the voluntary sector was placing the system under pressure, jeopardising the well-being of thousands of our children.
I know from experience that schools often only revert to referring children for specialist mental health treatment when the child has reach some kind of crisis point. Then follows an agonising wait for the child to get an appointment to be seen, IF it is deemed that they meet the correct criteria. Even then CAMHS in many areas are overwhelmed by demand.
So, all in all, our young children are being let down – at a time where they are most vulnerable, and at a time which could very well impact on their future well -being.