Cheshire East Council and its partners have welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent call for a greater focus on the mental health of children and young people.
The Prime Minister pledged extra training for teachers and strengthened links between schools and the NHS to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ and stigma of mental health illness.
Coinciding with Children’s Mental Health Week, beginning on February 6, Cheshire East Council and its partners will seek to build on its present campaign to offer greater emotional support to young people suffering mental health problems.
Cheshire East recognised in 2014 that something different needed to be done to support the emotional health of young people, with early help being critical, as more than half of all adults with mental health problems are diagnosed in childhood.
Young people across the borough also highlighted the issue as a priority back in 2015, via a youth council campaign.
The Cheshire East ‘Good Childhood Report’, produced by the Children’s Society in 2014, suggested poor levels of self esteem and confidence affecting one in 10 young people, with particular issues for young women.
A partnership was established between the council, the voluntary sector, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and local schools, with the aim of improving the support to young people experiencing emotional difficulties in the borough’s schools.
This led to the setting up of the ‘emotionally healthy schools’ project, which has recently celebrated its first year and has worked to improve educational and mental health at a number of local schools.
The project has been trialling a number of different approaches and, from this month, it is expanding to cover more schools across the borough, with the aim of supporting all schools over the next two years.
The project has been based on group work with students on resilience, professional mental health support for school welfare staff and mental health awareness training. The pilot has improved confidence in schools when responding to the emotional needs and mental health of children and young people, with a full evaluation by the University of Salford.
The partnership also recognises that young women who may be affected by depression prior to, during and after pregnancy, could be identified by health professionals at various contact points.
As a result the council is working with the health visiting service to increase support for mothers by appointing a specialist nurse role.
Cheshire East Council leader Rachel Bailey said: “We have long recognised that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is vitally important to both a good experience of childhood and adolescence, and in determining long-term health into adulthood.
“We also recognise that in order to help pupils succeed, schools have a role to play in supporting them to be resilient and mentally healthy.
“We are proactively working with our partners on a revised children and young people’s mental health transformation plan to 2020, to ensure that every young person in Cheshire East has access to appropriate services.
“We are also working to ensure that everyone in contact with children and young people feels equipped to actively support their mental health and wellbeing and that all Cheshire East schools and colleges are better equipped to support the emotional health of their students.
“I am proud of the work that is currently under way in our schools that has built stronger links between health services, the voluntary sector and the council, in order to better meet the needs of children and young people.”
Photo caption: Tree of life: Students from Ruskin Community High School & Middlewich High School with a ‘Tree of Life’, one example of the mental health support that has been piloted in schools