The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charity has donated £1.8m to mental health charities, which will include funds to provide mental health support in schools. Place2Be and the Anna Freud Centre are amongst the 10 charities that will receive grants and will be running online training and resources to schools to help with mental health.
Concerns about Mental Health in Lockdown
This is welcome news for families who have been feeling the impact of the crisis. Children and young people with a history of mental health problems are most at risk but the family anxiety caused by these unprecedented times has also affected the mental well-being of a far greater proportion of the school population. With adolescence being an important time for social interaction and brain development, neuroscientists have warned that reduced contact between teenagers during the lockdown may have damaging long term consequences for their well-being.
Concerns have been voiced since the beginning of lockdown about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children and young people. YoungMinds is one of the charities that will receive a grant from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charity. Surveys done by Youngminds in March and June with young people with a history of mental health show the impact of lockdown and highlight the difficulties young people have had accessing the right support.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Physicians also expressed her concerns that children and young people struggling with mental illness during the lockdown might not be getting the support they need.
Mental Health Support in Schools
Schools in particular are well-equipped for supporting vulnerable students who are facing threats to their wellbeing and many young people with challenging family lives see school as a safe place where they can find support. With schools being closed they will have been feeling extremely detached and threats to their mental health and wellbeing exacerbated. In May it was reported that Childline had delivered almost 7,000 counselling sessions about the impact of coronavirus since the start of January and that there had been an increase in the proportion of counselling sessions about mental health and well-being.
In the lead up to the schools reopening in June, YoungMinds carried out a survey that revealed the concerns that school staff have for the well-being of their students following the pandemic.74% of the respondents felt that schools being closed during lockdown has had a negative impact on the mental health of young people.
What’s Needed in Schools in September?
The evidence suggests that in September there will be a greater need for mental health support in schools including additional pastoral support, safeguarding and wellbeing services to help children and young people whose mental health has been adversely affected by lockdown. Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds has called on ring-fenced funding to be provided by the government to ensure that schools can bring in extra support to help pupils where it is needed.
For teachers concerned about returning to school after lockdown, see here for practical advice on supporting pupils on the return to school from the Mental Health Foundation and also a guide to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils during periods of disruption form the Anna Freud centre.