Mental health commission for schools in North East will tackle ‘pressing concerns’

Plans for a commission designed to tackle mental health issues affecting schoolchildren across the North East have been announced today.

Launched by SCHOOLS NorthEast, a network which represents 1,250 schools across the region, the commission will ask leaders across several professions – including education, health and the police –  to create solutions addressing the issue.

Speaking at the SCHOOLS NorthEast summit at St James’ Park, director Mike Parker will announce that mental health is one of the most “pressing concerns raised by North East headteachers”.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has seen a rise of up to three times the amount of self-harm referrals over the past three years, with numbers attending self-harm groups doubling in some parts of the region.

Mr Parker, added: “The pressure on young people, the proliferation of smartphones and social media, external factors such as welfare reform and austerity – all are colliding to create a toxic environment for young minds.

“The North East Schools Commission into Mental Health will be solutions focused, taking the best of what works and seeing how to make it adoptable across all schools in the region.”

Schools Week highlighted serious weaknesses with mental health care in schools as part of a series of investigations into vulnerable learners in February.

Speaking to senior politicians in the health field, it was revealed there is no accurate, up-to-date figures on the prevalence of mental health disorders of those aged under-18.

Figures were previously released on a five yearly basis but the 2009 data collection was delayed, and then cancelled.

In July, school support company The Key released a report that showed two thirds of headteachers and school leaders nationally are most worried about mental health.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, former minister for care and support, said: “We need quite a fundamental improvement in the way we intervene and identify these problems.

“I suspect there are many teachers who feel, because they don’t have the training, quite nervous about mental health.”

The DfE recently announced its first Mental Health Champion as Natasha Devon, who will present her Mental Health manifesto during a keynote speech at the summit in Newcastle today.

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