Children's Mental Health Week: Place2Be calls for specialist help in every school

  • Amrit Birdi reports on calls to employ a mental health specialist in every school on Children's Mental Week

A charity has called on the Government to fund a mental health specialist in every school to help a growing number of children who are struggling mentally.

There are now one in five children across the country who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition up from one in six in 2020.

Place2Be, a charity which provides mental health support in more than 500 schools across the country, believes having a mental health specialist in every school would help.

A YouGov survey, released at the start of Children's Mental Health Week, found that 55% of eight to 16-year-olds have something that would prevent them from speaking out about their mental health. Of those, 29% said they would not seek support due to feeling uncomfortable speaking to someone they do not know.

Lyndsey Baxter leads mental health classes at Seascape Primary School in Peterlee. Credit: ITV News

School work and exams were found to be the top concern for the cohort (57%), closely followed by physical appearance, with more than half (54%) reporting concern for how they look.

The initiative has already been implemented in Seascape Primary School, in Peterlee, with children encouraged to discuss their feelings in specialist classes, led by the school's permanent counsellor Lyndsey Baxter.

"That early intervention of being able to support a child to know that talking about how you feel is a good thing to do and a brave thing to do," she explained. "If you hold your feelings inside they get bigger and bigger and bigger.

"If you talk to the adult you trust or friend that you trust then they will be able to help you."

The school's assistant headteacher, Caroline Stuart, believes the role of the mental health specialist is now more important than ever due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Assistant headteacher Caroline Stuart believes mental health support is more important than ever after the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: ITV News

"Since the Covid pandemic things have changed for the children of our country," she said. "They need more support and they need that as a matter of course. They need access to it across the country when things occur.

"Things can happen in children's lives and having a place to be in school means they've got that support at their fingertips when they really need it."

The theme for this year's Children's Mental Health Week is 'my voice matters', encouraging young people to make their voice heard for the rest of their lives.

CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson has enocuraged children to speak out about their mental health. Credit: ITV News

CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson has been encouraging children to speak out throughout his career and believes the current generation can help set the standard for those to come.

"I think this generation is going to be the one that hopefully sets the new example that your mental health is important at this age now because what affects you as a kid will affect you as an adult," he explained.

"We want to spread that message that your voice is actually an important thing. It has been given to you for a reason - use it."

If you are a young person struggling with your mental health, or if you know a young person who would like help, please find advice and support lines here:

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