Mrs May has announced further provisions to safeguard the mental health of youngsters
Pupils are to be given routine mental health checks, Theresa May said tonight.
Primary and secondary schools will carry out ‘wellbeing’ assessments to spot potential issues.
Mental health problems among the young have increased six-fold over the past two decades and one in ten children now has a diagnosable condition.
Girls are most at risk, with self-harming reported among a fifth of those aged 14.
Mrs May said half of all mental health problems arise by the age of 14 yet only one in three get the right treatment.
The new checks are part of a £1.9billion plan to transform mental health services in schools.
The Prime Minister also announced:
- The appointment of the world’s first minister for suicide prevention;
- £1.8million to allow the Samaritans’ helpline to remain free for the next four years;
- At least mental health specialists are to be trained to work in schools for the first time, with the first intake to start by the end of next year and a 8,000 to be recruited long-term;
- Every school is to have a senior staff member responsible for mental health;
- The Government will publish an annual ‘state of the nation’ report on child mental health from next year.
Mrs May said: ‘We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence. We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.
‘And we can give the mental wellbeing of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.’
The new mental health assessments are to be made available to all schools as part of new classes on ‘mental resilience’ which will be part of the curriculum from 2020.
Downing Street stressed that although the classes will be mandatory, it will be up to each school whether they use the assessments.
But all teachers will be ‘encouraged’ to use the tests in order to highlight any issues so they can better target their teaching.
Officials envisage that most pupils will be assessed every year from the age of four.
They expect the assessments to be in a similar form to the ‘wellbeing’ surveys currently used by the Office of National Statistics to gauge the nation’s mood, adjusted for the age of the child.
Those surveys ask people how happy they are out of 10, how they rate their ‘satisfaction with life’, and how ‘worthwhile’ they believe their daily activities are.
If issues with particular children arise as a result of the assessments, it will be up to each teacher whether they flag it with parents, officials said.
The assessments are new element of a £1.9billion plan to transform mental health services in schools, outlined in a green paper published by the Government earlier this year.
Ministers expect the overall plan to bring savings of £6.4billion by spotting mental illness much earlier in life.
Health experts last night welcomed the announcement as a crucial step for the one in ten under-16s suffer from a mental health condition.
But they pointed out there is a huge way to go until mental health is given the same priority as physical health.
A report by the National Audit Office yesterday said the Government is ‘further away than it thought’ from achieving its goal of equal access to physical and mental health services for young people.
The Government aims 70,000 additional children and young people will receive treatment every year by 2020/21.
But the NAO said even if Ministers deliver on their plans they are unlikely to hit the target.
A separate report published in the Lancet medical journal last night found mental health disorders will drain £12 trillion per year from the global economy by 2030.
Mrs May said: ‘There are few greater examples than the injustices facing those with mental health conditions. But together we can change that.
‘Our record investment in the NHS will mean record investment in mental health.
‘We are not looking after our health if we are not looking after our mental health.
‘So we need true parity between physical and mental health – and not just in our health systems – but in our classrooms, workplaces and communities too.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who yesterday hosted a mental health summit in London, attended by ministers from 50 countries and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, said: ‘We need to do more to challenge the stigma that people with mental ill-health face and make sure they feel they can reach out for help.’
Dr Marc Bush, policy director at the YoungMinds charity, said: ‘While there are still big questions to be answered on future funding for NHS children’s mental health services, it’s good news that the government is committing to further support for schools.
‘The wellbeing of children should be every bit as important as academic performance, and schools need the tools and resources to make this a priority.
‘Mental health support teams could make a real difference, though the programme needs to be expanded so that it reaches all schools and students.
‘New state of the nation reports and student wellbeing measures will help to provide robust evidence about which mental health initiatives are most effective. Only by having up-to-date insights about the experience of young people can we hope to address the current crisis.’
A spokesman for the NSPCC added: ‘Increasing mental health support and awareness in schools is an important step to ensure children who need help get it as soon as possible.
‘But we know children don’t just experience mental health problems during the school day, with two thirds of contacts to Childline about mental health issues coming outside school hours.
‘Early intervention is vital to support young people before they reach this sort of crisis point.’
Theresa May appoints world’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention in bid to number of people taking their own lives
By Ben Spencer Medical Correspondent
Theresa May has appointed the world’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention in a bid to cut the number of people taking their own lives.
Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price will lead the national effort and try to end the stigma which stops people from seeking help, the Prime Minister said.
Around 4,500 people take their lives every year in England and suicide remains the leading cause of death among men under the age of 45.
Jackie Doyle-Price has been announced as the Minister for Suicide Prevention
Mrs Doyle-Price, whose title is now Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention, said: ‘I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities.
‘In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time.
‘It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them, as well as experts, to oversee a cross-Government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We’re already making progress when it comes to suicide prevention, the suicide rate is at its lowest for seven years.
‘But we need to do more to challenge the stigma that people with mental ill-health face and make sure they feel they can reach out for help.
‘I am delighted we are appointing Jackie Doyle-Price as our dedicated Minister for Suicide Prevention, and I know she will make a real difference.
‘Every suicide is a preventable death and we are determined to do everything we can to tackle the tragedy of suicide.’
Mrs Doyle-Price, 49, was elected MP for Thurrock in Essex in 2010 and given her first government job following the 2017 election, as junior health minister.
Originally from Sheffield, she sparked a row last year when she said many elderly people are ‘sitting in homes that really are too big for their needs’ – and should not expect to pass them on to their children.
She had one of the smallest majorities in Parliament – just 92 votes – when elected in 2010, but has since increased the margin to 351.
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details.