According to an NHS report, one in eight children and young people in the UK has a diagnosable mental health problem – that is roughly three school pupils in every class. It can range from depression and anxiety to self-harm and eating disorders.
At this time of heightened fears around coronavirus and the increased chances of having felt isolated during the lockdown, there is an added need to check on young people’s mental wellbeing.
As students return to school in September, a range of measures are in place to help.
‘FIRST AID’ AND OTHER SUPPORT
Ealing is one of the areas to have benefited from a government-funded programme aiming to put mental health ‘first aiders’ in each of our schools. It has been training teachers to recognise and respond to early warning signs. This way, they are more able to quickly spot the signs of a child in distress and know how to support them. A number of local teachers have already been trained by Mental Health First Aid England and, although its programme was paused because of COVID-19, more will follow as soon as it is possible to resume training.
Our schools will also be making use of new online resources designed for schools and colleges by health and education experts and produced in partnership with charities. The videos, webinars and teaching materials are intended to start conversations about mental health and also reassure those worried about the impact of the virus on their lives.
Meanwhile, a national See, Hear, Respond programme developed with Barnardo’s will work to identify vulnerable children who might not currently be receiving help, and provide support.
And the stress teachers are under has not been forgotten, either. A number of Ealing staff have signed up for an Education Support pilot scheme offering support from their peers, in recognition of the incredible efforts required to adapt their schools to the ever-changing coronavirus situation.
‘HELP IS ALWAYS AT HAND’
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for schools and children’s services, said: “Coronavirus has touched all of our lives – some more so than others. And, no matter our circumstances, the unprecedented challenges it has posed mean we are all more likely to feel anxious or sad. Schools are a safe haven where wellbeing and emotional support must be available to anyone who needs it, now more than ever. Our pupils must know help is always at hand.”