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Mental health officers could be placed in all schools to support Hackney’s most vulnerable kids

PUBLISHED: 10:03 28 June 2018

An officer from mental health charity Place2Be talking to students. Photo by Place2be

An officer from mental health charity Place2Be talking to students. Photo by Place2be

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Mental health officers will be placed in all Hackney schools in September, if a council-run scheme is successful.

The Petchey Academy. Picture: Emma BartholomewThe Petchey Academy. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Hackney Council, which invests more than £7million each year in its Child and Adolescent Mental Health provision (CAMHS), wants to support more of the borough’s most vulnerable kids by giving schools more resources to help with early interventions.

As it stands more than 40 of the 88 schools across the borough have CAMHS workers on site every week, but the council wants to give teachers more support when spotting kids who seem detached or are experiencing chaotic lifestyles.

The council is working with Hampstead charity Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families to hold workshops to increase teachers’ understanding of mental health within youngsters so they can spot the signs as soon as possible.

Petchey Academy is one of the schools which has benefitted from working with the centre, with Year 9 students taking part in its wellbeing and mental health programme.

An officer from mental health charity Place2Be talking to students. Photo by Place2be An officer from mental health charity Place2Be talking to students. Photo by Place2be

“The course focuses on dispelling myths around mental health issues and helping students to understand the difference between every day stress and actual mental health issues,” a Petchey Academy spokesman told the Gazette.

“The students really enjoyed it and engaged well with the sessions. The Petchey Academy ethos is based on our four Ps which are positivity, politeness, participation and perseverance – the first of which is incredibly important when it comes to wellbeing.

“A positive mindset is an essential tool in building resilience in both students and adults alike.”

There is a range of further specialist support commissioned by CAMHS, including early interventions, specialist care to support those with complex needs and also a provision for those with disabilities, as well as provision for those engaged with social care.

Deputy mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, at the Young Black Men research symposium at Hackney House last week. Picture: Adam Holt/Hackney CouncilDeputy mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, at the Young Black Men research symposium at Hackney House last week. Picture: Adam Holt/Hackney Council

All services provide therapies and input from skilled clinicians.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney’s education chief, said: “The council is working with partners to deliver some ground-breaking work in a number of schools, with the aim of supporting children and young people to understand issues around mental health and access support as early as possible.

“This includes strengthening relationships between CAMHS and schools, simplifying access to support through placing mental health practitioners in schools and working with schools to develop a robust wellbeing framework that supports and develops their children’s health and wellbeing.”

Also looking to expand its support is charity Place2Be, which works in schools – including Hackney New School, Bridge Academy and William Patten Primary – to provide early intervention against mental health issues that many young people carry into their adult lives.

Sarah Kendrick, head of service at the charity, said: “We support thousands of children and young people each year who face a range of issues – whether it’s bullying in the playground or the death of a parent, exam stress or witnessing domestic violence at home.

“Our vision is that children and young people in all schools have access to high quality, effective, evidence-based mental health support.

“By taking a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health – which involves parents, staff and pupils – we can create a culture of openness and understanding.”

Thanks to funding from The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, over the next two academic years Place2Be is offering 180 schools in Greater London free access to its Mental Health Champions: School Leader programme, where teachers will receive in-house training at the charity’s headquarters in Clerkenwell.

The sessions work on teachers coming together to discover the best mental health strategy for their individual school.

Training tracks how health issues can arise from a young age when young children feel detached from their parents or carers.

This lack of attachment is something that the charity believes can be spotted by teachers in the playgrounds and classrooms.

Teachers are given advice on how to help students with chaotic lifestyles, who more often than not, take up most of their times.

Schools can check eligibility and register interest at place2be.org.uk/London.

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