Following the introduction of mental health support teams across schools in Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire pupils are now being given swifter and improved access to mental health support.
In 2019, following a bid to NHS England, NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Commissioning Groups (CCG) were successful in securing funding to create new Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in schools as part of the long-term plan for the NHS.
The MHSTs are easily accessible to families and education staff as they are based in schools and provide early intervention and prevention programmes to young people, on an individual basis or in group sessions. The practitioners not only support young people, families and carers, but give advice to teachers and support staff as to what they can do to help a young person. They run parent sessions on supporting children with a range of subjects including exam stress and transition to high school and sessions for education staff on how to identify problems early.
Parents and young people are also being encouraged to join their participation groups to develop the service further.
The funding secured by Blackburn with Darwen, and East Lancashire CCGs provides support for:
- primary and secondary schools in Blackburn and Darwen
- primary schools in Burnley and Pendle
- secondary schools, special needs schools and colleges in Hyndburn, Ribble Valley and Rossendale
Dr Aliya Bhat, the GP lead for paediatrics (children) at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire CCGs, said: “We feel that offering more support to young people in schools at a much earlier stage, will help them to achieve the best educational outcomes and reduce the chance of them developing more serious mental health issues later in life. Our young people are under a great deal of pressure, not only from the stresses of education, social media and the normal issues that come with growing up, but the last eighteen months of lockdowns away from school, friends and a ‘normal’ life have been extremely challenging.”
One young person, aged 15, who wishes to remain anonymous, received support from her MHST for social anxiety. She didn’t want to leave home or even talk to her friends due to her anxiety and low mood. Her therapy has been so successful she is now able to tell her story.
She said: “When I first started therapy it was a little nerve wracking but straight away, I clicked with my therapist, and she helped me so much. My social anxiety was so bad that I was not able to go to shops by myself, even talk to people or look them in their eyes; so me and my therapist did little experiments to help me learn how to manage the situations.
“I am now able to go to the shops and calm myself down and not feel anxious at all. Knowing I was listened to and cared for by my therapist really helped. It was motivating to know that I can change my mental health.
“After being discharged from the service I went onto join the MHST participation group where we give our ideas to professionals to help build up the service. I have also gone on to join the youth forum to help young people. I am now a wellbeing champion and suicide prevention leader and encourage young people to talk about their mental health. I am so thankful to the Mental Health Support Team as I know how to overcome any anxieties I may have.”
Mark Swindells, Clinical Project Manager at East Lancashire Child and Adolescent Services (ELCAS), the providers of the MHST in Pennine Lancashire, said: “Young people are overloaded with stresses and worries these days, some of which is normal and some of which isn’t so much. We want to get to these young people before they become so overburdened, they can’t cope, so prevention and early intervention is key.
“Whilst my teams have been established longer in the secondary school settings than primary, we have already seen a number of younger pupils referred through to us. The feedback we have from young people, their parents and school staff has been phenomenal. To get feedback such as ‘The sessions were amazing and have changed my life’, ‘I can witness a great change in my child’, and ‘Thanks for your support – having access to your team has filled a hole in the services that schools are able to offer to pupils and it feels like everything is more joined up’ makes it all worthwhile.”
Currently requests for support from the MHST’s can be made through the school’s pastoral teams.