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UKCP unconvinced by mental health first aid investment pledge

Secondary school pupils

Publication date: June 28, 2017

Today, we expressed our scepticism of a government pledge to provide £200,000 funding for mental health first aid in schools.

Mental health first aid training is a one-day course designed to help teachers understand and identify mental health issues in children. Identifying if a young person is experiencing mental health issues is an important step in ensuring they get help. However, we remain unconvinced that a one-day training course is adequate to identify which children need help and which don’t.

The chronic underfunding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) on the NHS means there are few easily accessible services to refer young people to. Indeed, they may be harmed by falsely raising their hopes of help.

A recent joint survey by UKCP and other professional bodies found that:

  • 76% of NHS counsellors and therapists working with children said the number of therapeutic staff was inadequate to meet client needs
  • 84% said children and young people now need more severe levels of mental illness before they can get help
  • 33% said their service was facing downsizing or closure.

Our Chief Executive, Janet Weisz, said:

‘We have come across cases of children having to self-harm or be suicidal before being able to get NHS mental health help. This is a testament to just how starved of resources children’s services have been.

‘We’re sceptical of the worth of a one-day training course, especially without robust investment in NHS and other community services. Once a teacher has identified an issue, they actually need to have accessible services they can refer to.’

NHS investment remains inadequate, and pledges of money for mental health made by the government often get diverted to other services at a local level. More investment is needed and the mental health budget must be ring-fenced if we are to truly make a difference to young people’s mental health.