Opinion Former Article

The NASUWT’s comments on the government’s announcement on ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid Champions’

Responding to the announcement that Government is launching a programme to train up a ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion’ in every secondary school in England, Chris Keates General Secretary of the NASUWT, The Teacher’s Union, said:

“Teachers and school leaders are deeply concerned about the mental health issues being faced by the children and young people they teach.

“The shocking statistics revealed by the NASUWT’s recent survey of 2,000 teachers show the extent of the problems.

“Whilst the Government is right to be concerned about pupils’ mental health, today’s announcement will not address the extent of the issues facing schools.

“Teachers and school leaders take very seriously their duty of care to their pupils, but they cannot take the place of qualified healthcare professionals.

“A major part of the difficulties schools face is that when mental health issues are identified access to qualified, external professionals and appropriate support services is at best limited and in some cases none existent,  due to the year on year cuts these services have faced.

“Whilst training sessions may be helpful, they have the potential to place another burden and responsibility on the shoulders of teachers, already struggling to cope with excessive and unsustainable workloads.

“It is also deeply disappointing that, having acknowledged the mental health issues facing children and young people , yet again the extensive evidence of the mental health issues faced by teachers themselves has been ignored.

“The Government needs urgently  not only to provide pupils and teachers alike with direct and readily available access to mental health services staffed by  professionally qualified and trained staff who are best placed to support those in need but also to tackle the  contributory factors in the schools which are damaging mental health and wellbeing .”

An NASUWT survey into pupils’ mental health, conducted in March 2017, found that of 2,000 teachers and school leaders responding:

·         98% said there were pupils they come into contact with who they believe are experiencing  mental health problems

·         91% knew of pupils experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, 79% depression, 64% self-harm, 49% eating disorders and 47% OCD

·         Nearly half (46%) were not confident they would recognise the signs of a possible mental health problem in their pupils,  with less than a quarter (24%) confident they would be able to get timely support from expert services such as CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services)

An NASUWT survey of teachers, also conducted in March 2017 found that:

·         83% said their job has had an adverse impact on their wellbeing

·         59% said it had adversely impacted on their mental health and 52% said it has had a detrimental impact on their physical health.

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