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UK schools to receive mental health points of contact

20/04/2017 Joanna

The government is to install point of contact mental health experts in schools across the UK to tackle the problems of anxiety and depression emerging among students.

Up to 1,200 schools will take part in a trial to promote better joined-up working between schools and health services, with more than 1,000 schools to have a mental health expert on hand to offer support for students.

This represents an expansion of an ongoing pilot linking experts in child and adolescent mental health services to schools, which is now set to grow five times larger compared to the plans originally announced in 2015.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education confirmed to Schools Week that the intention behind these plans is "strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff", while adding that more proposals for improving services will be announced later this year.

Schools across 20 areas will receive funding for the revamped project, which remains under tender, with the identity of the contractor not yet confirmed.

It comes as part of a wider commitment by the government to improve mental health support for school-age children, with a recent green paper on mental health and young people by the Department of Health proposing that teachers should receive training on mental health issues.

The proposal has not yet been taken forward, but has been backed by prime minister Theresa May, who said in January that one-third of secondary schools will receive mental health training over the coming year, while the remainder will be given this training in the next two years.

Currently, it is estimated that one in ten school pupils experience mental health problems, with NHS England data showing that around 75 per cent of mental health problems in adult life begin before the age of 18.

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