NELFT NHS Foundation Trust has joined forces with NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in East and West Kent and HeadStart Kent to launch the second wave of the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) initiative in schools. This follows the success of the first wave sites in North Kent with NHS Dartford, Gravesham & Swanley and NHS Swale CCGs.
With one in nine young people (aged five to 18 years) diagnosed with a mental health condition, this initiative is a pioneering approach to help tackle mental health and wellbeing in England and support children and teenagers, with a mental health condition, who are more than twice as likely to have a mental disorder in adulthood.
Backed and funded by the NHS, the Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) programme will explore ways of delivering care and advice for young people’s mental health, in the familiar environment of their school or college. Each MHST will support several education settings, covering a population of around 8,000 children and young people.
Their new workforce of Education Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs) will work with education settings to provide early intervention on mild to moderate mental health issues and provide help to staff in schools and colleges. Teams will also act as a link with local children and young people’s mental health services and be supervised by NHS staff. This programme is being delivered jointly with the Department for Education.
NHS England estimates 500 children and young people will receive evidence-based interventions per MHST per year. This work builds on the NHS transformation programme already underway and means children who may be struggling with issues like anxiety about friendships or family pressures can be supported, alongside friends and family members, helping to build their understanding of mental health and how to manage their wellbeing.
EMHPs will work alongside other professionals who provide emotional wellbeing and mental health support to students including:
- school nurses
- educational psychologists
- school counsellors
- voluntary and community services
- social workers.
At North Kent’s Trailblazer launch, Dr Virginia Lumsden, NELFT Senior Clinical Psychologist and Trailblazer Clinical Lead, alongside the Mental Health Support Teams in North Kent, presented their approach to supporting the education system through early intervention to a large audience of schools and colleges, alongside local, regional and national partners and providers.
Dr Virginia Lumsden, NELFT Senior Clinical Psychologist and Trailblazer Clinical Lead, stated:
“Young people aged four to eighteen will have more rapid access to mental health and emotional wellbeing support in the school setting when needs first arise.
“Early intervention and prevention is crucial to prevent problems escalating further into adulthood”
‘Rachel Jones, Director of Acute Strategy and Partnerships, Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, said:
“We know that half of all cases of diagnosable mental illness begin by age 14 and three-quarters by the age of 25. Our ambition is to recognise these much earlier and increase the protective factors in a child or young person’s life.
“The Mental Health Support Teams are an exciting opportunity for us to collectively build strong partnerships between mental health services and schools and to expand resources so that we can support our children and young people to achieve their full potential.”
The specific schools that will be covered by the Mental Health Support Teams will be announced later this year.