Staff in schools, including school nurses, are a vital component in the provision of children's mental health, but are largely 'disconnected' from the sector, a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found.
The report, What really matters in children and young people’s mental health, states that schools must able to identify mental health issues and signpost pupils to relevant support and have the accountability to do this. Additionally, mental health assessments should be carried out in schools, to ensure that educational policies are not detrimental to mental health.
However, concerns have been raised that without funding to expand school nursing services, this may prove an impossible task. ‘Current services simply don’t have the resources to meet this growing challenge and, as demand rises, those resources become more and more inadequate,’ said Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people’s nursing at the Royal College of Nursing. ‘Schools have the opportunity to help many more children get the help they need, but without the right numbers of school nurses and other health professionals this potential will never be fulfilled.’
The report also suggested that children are taught about preserving mental health in the same way they learn numeracy and literacy in schools. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is now calling for the government to recognise the role of schools in children’s mental health services.
‘With the right support from service providers and the right training schools can become an important single point of access for referral through to providing access to the full range of services,’ said Dr Peter Hindley, chair of the CAMHS faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 'We can clearly see the positive impact where genuine integration of mental health services within schools has changed the culture and attitude towards mental health but in order for it to be truly effective, we need to see similar initiatives across the UK.’