Academics, teaching professionals and counsellors have been aware of the growing number of mental health issues in schools for some years. An NHS study in 2017 revealed that up to one in eight school age children had an identified mental disorder and these figures continue to rise according to Michael Younge, author and Founder of Powerful Positive Thinking.
It is a situation that has created enormous pressure on schools and academies faced with finding solutions to the growing problem of disruptive children suffering from a range of problems such as self-harm, low self-esteem, anxiety, bipolar, hyper-activity – the list seems almost endless
The good news is that the Government now seems prepared to provide additional funding needed to help young people, but in the short term, the pressure remains on teaching staff to introduce strategies and ongoing solutions to demonstrate their commitment to tackling mental health issues.
To make life more difficult there does not seem to be any common guidance so it’s understandable that many schools are confused as to the best way forward and it seems that this is a situation unlikely to change in the near future.
While £300 million has been pledged by Government – this also includes £95 million to appoint and train designated senior specialists for mental health – it would seem that most schools will have to wait, maybe for up to five years before they get direct benefit from NHS trained professionals.
To complicate matters still further, the term mental health is linked to so many other issues such as bullying, sexuality and eating disorders, to name but a few, which are all interlinked and frequently require specialist help.
Most schools are already training staff to recognise such issues and have policies in place to implement a response to mental health problems but few have yet to introduce practical ideas, courses or lessons aimed at improving the wellbeing of students.
So here we have it – a legal requirement by Government to tackle mental health issues and cash strapped schools, short on resources and budgets – doing what they can until the cavalry arrives and as already mentioned, that could take up to five years say some critics.
There are of course many excellent charities that will visit schools and talk to youngsters with mental health issues but the visits are understandably limited and there is only so much that even the most dedicated of charities can achieve.
So the onus is really on schools to talk constructively and positively to children with mental health issues and introduce lessons that will inspire and motivate – and they are needed now – but here’s the big question, is your school ready?.
Michael Younge is founder of Powerful Positive Thinking which works with schools to provide courses and modules to help students suffering from feelings of low self-esteem and other disorders. You can visit his website: www.powerfulpositivethinking.or/courses