A coalition of mental health and educational experts, Government ministers, and youth advocates met this week to discuss and understand the impact that the pandemic has had on young people's mental health across England.
Ministers from across Government were joined by Education secretary Gavin Williamson, multiple charities, and Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George, of Love Island fame, to discuss how mental health can be front and centre in the educational recovery of millions of students who went back to school this week.
One of the critical issues discussed was the concerning growth of untreated eating disorders and self-harm among young people. For example, hospital admissions for bulimia suffers have climbed sharply during lockdown, with admissions for all age groups up by 32% on pre-pandemic numbers.
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New Action Group builds upon previous Government initiatives
The Government said that this week’s meeting built upon previous commitments to ensure millions more children and young people have access to specialist support through Mental Health Support Teams. That initiative plans to ensure that millions of children have access to early mental health interventions in schools and colleges by 2023.
Emphasized at the meeting was the role of educational staff in responding to their pupils' emotional and mental health needs. In August of last year, the Government launched an £8m programme aimed at boosting teacher and student wellbeing by providing a tailored mental health training to nominated staff members.
Additionally, free online practical psychological training modules have been set up by Public Health England for educational professionals and the general public to assist young people in crisis.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Getting young people back into schools and colleges has been a national priority, not just because of the significant benefits to their education but because of the benefit to their wellbeing as well.”
“The important work of this Mental Health Action Group will build on the significant investment we have already put into mental health in education, through training for teachers, our new health education curriculum and expert teams in schools and colleges. Today’s meeting highlights the cross-government approach we are taking to make sure we continue to support staff and students.”