Teachers ‘straining under pressure’ from student mental health crisis | Education

Schools and teachers are ‘straining under pressure’ to support the growing number of school children developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, experts say.

Despite being the people students turn to most often when in distress, teachers are hampered in their desire to help by the profession’s widespread lack of training in dealing with mental health issues. .

The huge barriers many families in England face in getting help for their son or daughter from NHS Child and Young People‘s Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is putting pressure on schools, say a group of education and health experts writing in the journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

“The growing health needs of children are currently not being met by the health sector. Schools and teachers provide vital support, but they cave under the pressure of the demands placed on them,” they say.

“The mental health of children and young people in England, and the services designed to support them, are in a dire state,” they add. While rates of mental illness among under-18s have halved in the past three years, “supply is nowhere near enough to meet need”.

Only one in four of the 500,000 children and young people referred to CAMHS each year receive help as services are stretched, and many are denied care because they are not deemed sick enough.

The authors include Chloe Lowry from the UCL Institute of Education in London, Lisa-Maria Müller and Alison Peacock from the Chartered College of Teaching and Anant Jani from the Institute of Global Health at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Schools should receive NHS funding to help them train teachers to meet growing needs, they argue.

Teachers’ in-depth knowledge and regular interaction with their students means that they are “not only the first port of call when things go wrong, but for many the only port of call”. Surveys show that children and young people turn to them for help more often than to their own families. Teachers are considered, alongside GPs and social workers, as part of the first level of support from CAMHS.

“It is therefore both astonishing and alarming that teachers in England are not adequately trained for these roles,” the authors write. Only one teacher per school in England receives mental health awareness training.

Despite being Level 1 CAMHS professionals, only 40% of teachers feel equipped to teach children in their class with mental health needs and only 32% knew which organizations outside the school could help students , according to a government report in 2016.

“While schools and colleges are doing all they can for students, the fact remains that the lack of support and provision of mental health services for children and young people has been a persistent problem for the past many years,” said Dr. Mary Bousted, Joint Chief Executive Officer. secretary of the NEU, the main teachers’ union. Covid made the situation worse, she added.

“Workload, lack of external support, insufficient staff to work on pastoral issues and training are all huge barriers to students getting the support they need and should expect. .”

Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Nihara Krause said teachers need to have specialist mental health services they can refer students to as students present with increasingly complex problems.

“Schools should provide basic mental health training to all staff, have specialist trained teachers, have support for staff to share challenges they may face in their students and themselves, [and] have clear school policies and procedures on dealing with students with different mental health issues,” Krause added.

A government spokesperson said: ‘We are supporting teachers to help children and young people recover from the emotional impact of the pandemic, including providing training for key mental health officers in every school and college public by 2025.

“To support pupils with more complex needs, we have also invested an additional £79 million to expand children’s mental health services and accelerate the deployment of mental health support teams, which will enable almost three million children in England have access to health experts at school or college. by April 2024.”

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