Telegraph Voices: How are mental health issues being tackled in our schools?

A three-pronged approach to help all our young people -

Thursday, 30th November 2017, 11:07 am
Updated Thursday, 30th November 2017, 11:08 am
Experiencing worry

Matt Peers, Commissioning Manager for Children’s Mental Health at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group and Sheffield City Council

In Sheffield we want every child and young person to have access to early help in supporting their emotional wellbeing and mental health needs.

We are working with people and organisations across the city to improve mental health support for children and young people .

This is in all areas - from schools to hospital admissions and in crisis support.

To tackle mental health issues in schools, we have priority areas:

* Roll-out of the Healthy Minds Framework.

We have been testing an innovative approach to supporting emotional wellbeing and mental health in schools. The Healthy Minds Framework is being delivered by Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, and has been commissioned by us and Sheffield City Council.

The support is tailored to each school and involves a range of activities including training for staff and advice for students.

Now we’re rolling it out further and also providing extra training for school staff, including Youth Mental Health First Aid, and supporting students with eating disorders.

* Working alongside children and young people.

To help tackle mental health issues in schools, we have been working with children and young people, including the charity Children and Young People’s Empowerment Project – or Chilypep.

This has resulted in the #nottheonlyone campaign, which aims to reduce mental health stigma and direct young people to where they can access support.

* Working to prevent suicide in children and young people.

We have worked together across the city to look at how we can help prevent suicide in children and young people and this has included creating a range of resources for school staff to access, including a reference guide for what to do if they think a young person needs urgent help.

Young people can find out more about the services available across the city here: { talk-directory.htm|NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group|click here}

Mental health is always on Tapton’s agenda - Steve Rippin, Assistant Headteacher, Tapton School, Darwin Lane, Sheffield

Theresa May publicly announced her commitment to improving children’s mental health in 2016, pledging £1.4 billion to the cause.

This was a very welcome step in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.

Sheffield’s Healthy Minds project won a bid to be involved in a national pilot to develop links between schools and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) which started in 2015.

Clearly schools can play a significant part in supporting children and young people’s mental health.

Sheffield Healthy Minds involved 10 schools in the pilot 2015-16. This was widened to 45 in 2017 with schools currently applying for the next round of 40 places in 2018.

The aim is for all schools in Sheffield to be Healthy Minds trained by 2020.

A number of other local authorities have since adopted similar models based on the success of Sheffield Healthy Minds.

Tapton School jumped at the chance to be involved in the initial pilot as we were very aware that mental health issues were impacting on a number of students.

We initially set about raising awareness and destigmatising mental health through a series of posters, assemblies and form discussions so that students felt more able to talk about mental health issues.

We also taught resilience and self-help techniques through redesigned PSHE lessons, integrated across all topics, to promote positive mental health together with building student confidence to seek help and support in a timely manner before the issues become more ingrained.

A number of staff across school volunteered as Healthy Minds Champions to offer students support in school.

Working with the Sheffield Healthy Minds initiative and CAMHS professionals provided a fantastic opportunity for the school to use their expertise to develop a much better understanding of mental health and wellbeing to support children in school.

Key to Tapton School’s success has been for mental health and wellbeing to always be on the agenda and to listen to the student and staff voice.

We have developed an extensive mental health and wellbeing section on the school website. The website highlights the support available at Tapton as well as signposting other support locally and nationally and gives access to a wide range of information 24/7 for students, parents and staff.

We also offered a parents information evening on ‘how to support your child with the pressures of exams’ in conjunction with CAMHS so parents were fully informed, giving them strategies to support their children through exams.

Mental health and wellbeing at Tapton is a whole- school approach, which is part of our culture, at the heart of everything we do at Tapton.

Like many others, I eagerly await the publication of the green paper on children and young people’s mental health to see how it promotes mental health and wellbeing in schools, galvanises services and enhances support which we all recognise is much needed for children and young people.

Success is not a big step in the future but a small step taken right now.

As a National Teaching School Tapton School leads Fields of Learning alliance. I see this as a fantastic opportunity to take the next steps to train staff in supporting student mental health and wellbeing.

It is also important to provide training for staff to help support their own mental health and wellbeing.

This is a key area for me as I believe it is important that staff look after their own mental health and wellbeing, supported by the school to be able to care for students.

Staff mental health and wellbeing directly impacts on students and school.

Support helped me to where I am today - Lara Ferguson, Tapton sixth form pupil

I’ve been a pupil at Tapton School for eight years now, and it’s safe to say my time at the school has been rather turbulent.

I have suffered with my mental health for the vast majority of my teenage years and I will forever be grateful for just how accommodating Tapton has been to my needs.

When my mental health difficulties first became clearly apparent the school was nowhere near as equipped to deal with problems as they are now. However that didn’t stop staff and teachers doing their upmost, and most importantly offering me a safe and compassionate place to talk.

I remember being in hospital and I was having a really tough day, when two teachers (Mrs Tabani and Mrs Higgins) visited me. They came armed with cards and gifts and instantaneously made me feel less alone.

To me this encapsulates all that’s great about Tapton School. Teachers and staff will always go above and beyond in order to do their best by their students.

Once discharged from hospital many months later I was ready to transition back into school. It was agreed that I’d move back a year and take a reduced number of GCSEs.

I was understandably incredibly anxious after having been out of education for a prolonged period of time.

Without the support from Tapton in my first few weeks back at home I genuinely believe that I would not have been able to get back into education, and as a result I would not be in the position I am today.

Times have changed significantly since then.

Although I am only in school for two days a week, I am ready to sit my A-levels and am currently applying to university.

I’m managing to pursue my passions and am currently working as a national advisor at the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. I now also give talks about young people’s mental health at events and NHS conferences across the country.

In addition to my roles as a mental advocate I am also a member of youth parliament.

I have recently been elected as the debate lead for Yorkshire and the Humber, meaning in just four weeks’ time I will be speaking at the dispatch box in the House of Commons live on TV.

I am managing to be an advocate for the voiceless.

I am both proud and honoured to be a pupil at such a forward thinking and pioneering school.

Healthy Minds project is making a difference - Bethan Plant, Health Improvement Principal, Public Health, People Services Portfolio, Sheffield City Council

With students spending more than 30 hours a week at school each week, often more time than they do with their parents, our schools are perfectly placed to provide the support that young people need to help counter some of the increasing pressures they face.

Working with our schools, we take an innovative approach to supporting our students’ emotional health and wellbeing, providing early help to our students, to help prevent problems developing.

Our Healthy Minds programme aims to make sure that all students and school staff have a good understanding of mental health, and are able to access the support they need so they can learn better and achieve more. Students and staff have a place at school where they can go where they access help if they need it and students have the skills and support to help their friends should they need it.

The programme brings together schools and children’s mental health teams so they can work to provide the professional support young people need in a safe space. Schools work with their students to create the support they need.

The plan includes training for staff such as mental health first aid, as well as the tools to help schools create new PSHE materials.

As part of the initiative, schools have nominated ‘Healthy Minds champions’ who raise awareness of mental health issues in school with other students and can provide support for other pupils experiencing emotional difficulties.

After a successful pilot last year, with 12 schools, this approach has already been held up nationally as an example of good practice.

More importantly, young people have told us what a difference the programme has made to their lives both in and out of school.

The scheme has now been rolled out to 45 schools and we hope by 2020 all our primary and secondary schools will have adopted the Healthy Minds initiative.