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MPs call for ‘whole-school approach’ to tackling mental health problems

Financial pressures are restricting the ability of schools to support children suffering with mental health problems, MPs have this week warned.

In a joint inquiry conducted by the Health Committee and the Education Committee, it was concluded that schools and colleges were struggling to find the time and money to devote to improving the wellbeing of their pupils.

Services such as in-school counsellors and other mental health services were found to be cut back as purse strings were increasingly tightened due to the government reportedly providing inadequate funding for education.

This is despite the fact that a growing number of young people are struggling with mental health issues: as MPs explained, half of all mental illnesses in adult life start before the age of 15, and one in 10 children aged between five and 16 had a diagnosed disorder.

And though both committees praised the government’s commitment to making PSHE mandatory in schools, the report went on to warn that “the promotion of wellbeing cannot be confined to PSHE lessons”.

To tackle this growing issue, the MPs recommended that a ‘whole-school’ approach was encouraged to promote wellbeing throughout the culture of schools and colleges that was integrated into the curriculum and training of staff.

The committees also called for schools to work better with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which in some areas don’t actually exist.

And MPs also argued that while social media had its benefits, excessive usage could lead to sleep deprivation and depression in young people.

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: “With half of all mental illness starting before the age of 15, and three quarters by aged 18, the government and educators must ensure sufficient time is allowed for activities in schools and colleges that develop the life-long skills children and young people need to support their wellbeing.”

Last month, cuts to school budgets were also found to be having a “detrimental” impact on education standards in school as two teachers’ unions warned that without funding, the state of education in the country was likely to continue to worsen.

Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the Education Committee, now said: “Schools and colleges have a frontline role in tackling mental ill health and promoting wellbeing among children and young people.

“We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary.”

This week’s findings follow a separate report from the Education Committee a year ago which found that councils were failing to properly support children with mental health problems.

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