UK programme aims to help teachers and mental health service providers work better together
Teachers can now take advantage of specialist training to help them better support pupils who are experiencing mental health issues. It is thanks to a project being rolled out nationally following a successful pilot.
The Link programme, which launched nationwide in September, offers training to teachers and people working in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The aim is to encourage better collaboration and communication between the groups and, ultimately, better care for young people.
“Schools know the children and their families really, really well,” said Jaime Smith, director of the programme at Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families, which is running the programme. “We want to make sure that all of that knowledge is picked up by the mental health services.”
The training is offered to teachers working with young people in any educational environment: from nurseries to sixth form colleges and including pupil referral units.
According to recent NHS figures, one in eight children aged five to 19 has a mental health disorder. For women aged 17 to 19, the figure is as high as one in four. It is hoped the training will give teachers a better understanding of mental health issues and how and when to refer students on to mental health services. “Education and health professionals often speak a slightly different language,” Smith added.
We want teachers’ knowledge of students to be picked up by health services
The structure of the NHS means that mental health services vary significantly across the UK. Smith says the training programme will not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but will take into account the circumstances of each area. “How we work with a small London borough might look very different to how we work in a large area like Hertfordshire with 500-plus schools,” she explained.
In some areas of the UK, teachers cannot refer their students directly to CAMHS, making it much more challenging for them to help students access the care they need.
A pilot of the programme launched in 2015 to 250 schools. “It showed improved communication and joint working, greater knowledge of mental health issues, greater understanding of referral routes, and improved timeliness and appropriateness of referrals,” Smith said.
Featured image: Pan Xiaozhen