Britain's leading counselling body has challenged the government's latest plans for supporting school pupils facing mental health issues.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, marked A-Level results today by visiting teenagers at one of the National Citizenship Service camps dotted around England and Northern Ireland set to benefit from mental health training.

100,000 teenagers aged 15-17 will receive training aimed at alleviating exam pressures and boosting self-esteem, the government announced today.

Training credibility questioned

"No information has been given in this announcement as to who the mental health organisations developing this training are, what it will involve, or the level of mental health training of the 10,000 staff, most of whom are temporary, seasonal workers," said Andrew Reeves, Chair of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP).

“This programme would come too late for many young people, while leaving others with little or no after support." 

“BACP has long campaigned for school-based counselling as it can provide an early intervention to stop conditions accelerating into something more serious and complex."

"It is quicker and easier for children to access, usually in just two to three weeks."

“School-based counselling uses experienced staff who have chosen to train in mental health as their career - rather than teachers, or other staff working with young people given mental health training.”

"Any investment into the mental health of young people is to be welcomed [but] this programme appears to be very limited in its reach."

Mental Health Today contacted the National Citizen's Service requesting further information on how the training will be delivered and received a response this afternoon.

A spokesperson for the NCS said: "We are now in the process of scoping the training content for 2018."

"We expect that it will continue our focus on identifying and providing immediate triage and responses when young people present signs of mental health concerns ánd provide staff with support to their resilience and ability to deliver their jobs successfully."

Prime Minister promises to build on existing mental health policies

Prime Minister May said: “Mental health issues can have a devastating effect on young lives and that’s why making sure young people are fully supported both inside and outside of the classroom is a key priority for me."

“It is not only the pressures of school and exams, though that is in the front of our minds today, but also self-esteem issues, struggles with home life or friendships, and getting into university or finding a job that can all affect mental wellbeing.

“We know that early intervention, along with giving young people the confidence to access support, is key - that’s where NCS plays such a vital role. NCS helps young people forge friendships across social divides and enhance their confidence and self-esteem.

“This excellent enhancement to the NCS programme will build on the work we are already doing in schools and ensure young people get the knowledge and help they need.”

The Government has made a series of mental health announcements since winning re-election in June.

Mental health first aid training is now being rolled out to all secondary schools and a mental health workforce expansion plan has been published.

The latter has also attracted criticism from the BACP this week.

It joined the British Psychological Society, the British Association of Social Workers, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and the UK Council for Psychotherapy in writing a joint letter to the government.

The five groups say too much emphasis has been placed on expanding psychiatry at the neglect of other mental health professions.