The outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced more funding for mental health services: “…a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities.”
Of course, this is long overdue, as many families will say, as they have struggled with their children’s anxiety and other mental health conditions. And this isn’t the first PM to promise more money and equal funding on mental health as on physical health.
Part of the proposed changes involve training teachers in recognising mental health issues – let’s hope that is existing teachers, not just trainees – and encouraging NHS staff to learn about suicide prevention. Also to encourage more joined-up support between schools and NHS provision. It aims to be transformative, so they are setting the bar high given the dashed hopes and needs of the last few years.
Support needs to be at all levels with schools and GPs being the first stop for parents and children: this means school counsellors available five days a week; SEN departments and pastoral care that supports all children, without the stigma that they are being drawn into special needs (awful to say that, I know, but it’s how some children see it); referrals to CAMHS within a few days; and prompt diagnosis and specialist treatment provided locally in children’s facilities, not adult centres.
One facet of the changes is early intervention. This makes sense if we can alleviate or prevent anxiety from spiralling out of control, or if more serious mental health conditions can be flagged up for prompt diagnosis and local-based treatment, before a situation becomes a crisis.
Early intervention approaches are still being developed, and resilience is central to many of them. The Bounceability approach is to acknowledge what is going on and how you are feeling, and to talk to others; to learn the tools, such as challenging thoughts and building confidence; to build a supportive toolkit that you can use – and build on – throughout teens and adult life.
So let’s hope that these new resources will make a difference and begin to filter through to actual schools and NHS services very soon.