Scottish school pupils face mental health lottery

Mentalhealth

Almost two thirds of local authorities said they do not employ a mental health link worker, or hold no information on the role

25th July 2017 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

Around two thirds of Scottish local authorities have not hired staff to provide school pupils with mental health support.

A total of 14 of Scotland’s councils do not employ a mental health link worker in schools, and a further 12 did not hold any information on the role. Six out of 14 regional health boards also confirmed that they do not hold the position.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition – an alliance of leading independent and third sector service providers that care for and support vulnerable children – said that the workers are key to addressing mental health issues at an early stage.

Kenny Graham, a member of the group who works at additional support needs school Falkland House, said: “Without these qualified professionals children and young people are often being referred to costly specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), when these issues could have been addressed much earlier on. Not only is this then contributing to long waiting times to access treatment, but the long wait often means that the child or young person’s condition worsens considerably.”

The Scottish Government has said that a mental health support worker is available to every school in Scotland, but that the role may not be a specific job title.

Graham highlighted the effect that improved support has had in Wales, where 86% of pupils do not need to be referred to CAMHS after five school sessions.

He said: “The evidence in support of school-based counselling is compelling. Early intervention and taking a preventative approach to children and young people’s mental health will not only alleviate the pressure on costly CAMHS and limit the number of young people wrongly referred, but will ensure that children and young people get the correct help and support when they need it and in the most appropriate setting.”

The findings were identified by a series of Freedom of Information requests submitted by Scottish Labour – who have described the situation as a postcode lottery.

Inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “How can we trust SNP ministers when they claim support is in place, when education authorities and health boards say that it's not?”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We take child and adolescent mental health very seriously and that’s why our new mental health strategy is committed to a review of personal and social education in schools to ensure every child has access to any appropriate support, counselling, or pastoral guidance they may need."

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27th July 2017 by Sandra Marshall

I like the article and agree that there should be more emphasis put on early intervention. We are placing to much reliance and stress on specialist services instead of creating the jobs that will put the young people first. The present system that is geared up to emergency response instead of early intervention and support does not work. It is worth reminding ourselves that if youngsters start life with the idea they have something wrong and that belief is reinforced by services, the trauma of that negative reinforcement can stay with that person for their lifetime. I know someone in that position. Thank you Gareth for that