The increasing numbers of children and young people experiencing mental illness must be tackled by better training for teachers, says the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The call comes at the start of the academic year and coincides with the publication of new online training resources produced by MindEd, a group of leading health organisations commissioned by Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare.
The free e-learning resources, which include real-life video scenarios, will ensure teachers are able to support self-harming pupils, those contemplating taking their own life and those directly affected by suicide.
Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “MindEd’s resources are the best introduction to the vital training teachers need and comes at a time when children’s mental health services are over-stretched.”
NHS Digital’s recent survey[i] of children and young people’s mental health found one in eight 5 to 19 years olds had at least one mental disorder.
Referrals to child mental health units from UK primary schools have risen by nearly 50% in three years[ii] while hospital admissions for self-harming 9 to 17-year olds have risen by 46% in the last five years[iii].
The online modules cover four areas: understanding suicidal ideation and self-harm; identification and what to do; safety planning skills; and post-suicide bereavement.
Tony Draper, CEO of Lakes Academies Trust, said: “I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of children in my schools suffering with mental illness.
“Teachers across the country are currently ill-equipped to deal with the mental health crisis in their classrooms and support the vast numbers of mentally ill children. I urge them to make use of these excellent resources.”
Each module is interactive and depicts a real-life situation – including the story of a pupil whose father took his own life - allowing the user to have confidence when approaching similar situations in their classroom.
As well as teachers, the modules will help parents, care workers and all professionals who work with children and young people.
Dr Raphael Kelvin, National Clinical Lead to MindEd Consortium and Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said: “MindEd’s new resources will give people the skills and guidance they need to engage with young people who are facing issues around suicide and self-harm.
“Teachers - and others working with children and young people – will have the confidence to engage in difficult conversations with children affected by suicide and self-harm, which will help make those conversations a little easier.”
To access the resources visit: https://www.minded.org.uk/