Children Need A Mental Health Catch-Up – Not Just An Academic One - Rugby and Daventry Radio Station Midlands UK            

Children Need A Mental Health Catch-Up – Not Just An Academic One

Written by on September 1, 2020

Article Published on Tuesday September 1, 2020 1:05 PM by


Children Need A Mental Health Catch-Up – Not Just An Academic One


Small children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown, writing.

When children return to school for the new term, they will not just need to catch up academically. A mental health catch-up is needed too.

Children and teenagers are having to come to terms with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, school closures and lockdown restrictions.

This includes social isolation, loneliness, trauma, bereavement, uncertainty, change, family problems, relationship difficulties, plus the difficulties of transition for those who have moved schools. 

It’s a long and troubling list – and is being faced by young people at a pivotal time in their lives. 

But sadly, government investment in the mental health of young people will only scratch the surface of the issues that lie ahead. 

It goes nowhere near providing a nationally consistent and long-term support system to help young people therapeutically recover from how the pandemic has impacted on their lives. 

For many young people, the new term comes after nearly six months of not being able to access the professional support they so desperately needed. 

A survey by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the University of Roehampton showed that school counselling had halved between before lockdown restrictions came into force in March, and when the survey was carried out in July.

This was mainly because schools had closed or had reduced or stopped the provision of therapy due to Covid-19 restrictions. Some children and young people were unable to access online therapy because there was nowhere private that they could have it. 

And a survey by charity Young Minds, carried out in June and July, suggested that almost a third of young people who were receiving some form of mental health support immediately before the pandemic – including from the NHS, private providers, school counsellors and helplines –  were no longer accessing it, but still needed it.

School counsellors are expecting a huge influx in demand for their services over the next few months and are anticipating a rush of young people coming to see them when the new term starts.

School closures may have impacted counselling services over the past six months – but these dedicated counsellors will play a critical role in supporting young people through the next stage of this pandemic. 

A trained counsellor gives a young person a place that is focussed 100% on their needs – a safe space with no judgement to help them to understand and cope with what they’re going through.

School counselling services are not on offer to all pupils in England. And that’s a scandal.

They can have a positive effect on young people’s confidence, resilience, family relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement. 

And young people have told me how it makes a difference that they can see their counsellor in their school, and that they don’t have to travel across their town or city for an appointment. It’s much easier for them to access this support. 

But this crucial service is not on offer to all pupils in England. And that’s a scandal.

While Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland already have statutory funded school counselling services, England does not.

Funding is based on decisions at an individual school, academy trust or local authority level. 

There’s also an issue of reliance on volunteers and trainees to provide these services at schools.

On Thursday (27 August), the government announced a package of £8 million for mental health and wellbeing support for young people. 

But the support offered here is more generic, looking at upskilling school staff to have those difficult conversations with students, they still need somewhere to refer students on to. 

What could make a difference here is a nationwide investment in qualified, professional counsellors in schools.

School staff need services to help them help our most vulnerable children and young people, they can’t do it alone.

BACP is lobbying for a paid counsellor in every secondary school. And you can help by writing to your MP to ask them to support a nationally-funded counselling roll-out for schools in England.

England needs to catch up with the other UK nations in the mental health support it offers school children – and there is no more crucial time than now to do this. 

If young people are to emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and flourish academically and socially; supporting their mental health in the weeks, months and years to come must be prioritised.

School counsellors are in the perfect position to help with this.

Jo Holmes is Children, Young People and Families Lead at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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Children Need A Mental Health Catch-Up – Not Just An Academic One
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