Centre for Mental Health today welcomed the Government’s pledge to invest in more support for mental health in schools but warned that a much broader approach was needed to give every child the best possible chance of a healthy future.

Responding to Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision, the green paper released today by Department of Health and Department for Education, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “School plays a pivotal role in every child’s mental health. With the right support, schools can protect and promote a child’s emotional wellbeing with lifelong benefits. Without it, we miss vital opportunities daily to give the most vulnerable children a better start in life.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to invest in extra mental health support in schools, to piloting a new four-week waiting time standard for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and to bringing lessons in mental health into the classroom.

With the right support, schools can protect and promote a child’s emotional wellbeing with lifelong benefits. Without it, we miss vital opportunities daily to give the most vulnerable children a better start in life.

“Bringing more talking therapies into schools will help to close a big gap in current service provision for children with common mental health problems. But recruiting and retaining people to work in the proposed new mental health support teams will be a major challenge.

“We are concerned that the plans announced today do not go as far as they should to offer every child the help they need. There is no mention of the need to support children to develop social and emotional skills throughout their school careers using proven techniques. And there is no commitment to providing proven parenting programmes to families. Yet these critical interventions can make a huge difference to a child’s health and future life chances.

“It is also essential that no school and no child is left behind. It is not enough to ‘incentivise’ schools to appoint a ‘senior lead’ for mental health at a time of significant financial pressures. And it is vital that the Government commits to closing the gap for the young people facing the biggest risks to their mental health: including those from Black and minority ethnic communities, LGBT young people and children living in poverty.

It is not enough to ‘incentivise’ schools to appoint a ‘senior lead’ for mental health at a time of significant financial pressures.

“We welcome the pledge to establish a new working group to look at mental health support for 16-25 year olds. This is an age group less likely to seek help yet with evidence of very high levels of distress in recent national surveys. The working group must include young people from a wide range of backgrounds in order to co-produce solutions that will really make a difference.

“Today’s consultation paper must mark a new start for children and young people’s mental health in England. For too long, we have left children’s mental health to chance. Families and schools have been left not knowing what to do. Many have struggled to get any help when a child is in difficulty until they reach a damaging and costly crisis. And young people have too often found the help available too remote, too clinical and too stigmatising.

For too long, we have left children’s mental health to chance. Families and schools have been left not knowing what to do. Many have struggled to get any help when a child is in difficulty until they reach a damaging and costly crisis. And young people have too often found the help available too remote, too clinical and too stigmatising.

“Bringing more mental health support into schools is a big step in the right direction. It signals that supporting children’s mental health is as important as promoting their physical health. And it should help to close the gap between schools and health services that have left too many children without the right help at the right time. It is now vital that we take action in every school so we no longer miss the vital opportunities to give children a better start in life wherever they live.”