Children’s Mental Health Week: Mental Health Support Teams in Schools
05 Feb 24
Our Mental Health Support Teams in Schools (MHST’s) play an important role supporting children and young people, aged 5-19, with their mental health and emotional wellbeing during their education.
The MHST’s work in schools and support with mild to moderate challenges. Issues they work with the children and young people on include anxiety, anger management, promoting positive behaviour, resilience and facing a feared situation.
The Designated Mental Health Lead at the school can refer a child or young person into the service if a need is identified. Parents and carers can also speak to the school directly if they feel that this service that might be of benefit to their child. They will then either be referred on to the service or signposted to other more suitable sources of support.
The MHST’s offer one to one support as well as group activities and also working with the school or college directly and helping education staff to promote better mental health for all.
The team work with parent/carers for primary aged children for one-to-one support as this is found the most effective way to see positive results from the intervention. Young people in secondary school and higher education are worked with directly and advised to share their new strategies with their family members to support positive outcomes.
At a one-to-one initial assessment, an agenda is set with the young person which will include what they hope to achieve, confidentiality and acknowledgement of their strengths. They will then work directly with the young person using a variety of techniques including drawing, artwork and modelling to help them to express themselves.
Group work is often beneficial for children and young people of both primary and secondary school age who need additional help with issues such as understanding emotions, low mood, transitions or friendships. Confidentiality within the group is agreed from the outset.
Workshops, assemblies and staff training all help with the whole school approach.
One eleven-year-old who has benefitted from one-to-one support via the mental health support team was struggling to manage her anxiety around mock exams and her upcoming GCSEs. Expectations were high from school and herself which engulfed her in more worry.
She felt emotionally drained and was experiencing negative feelings including worthlessness, low self-esteem, self-doubt, anger and panic. She internalised her emotions as she didn’t want to appear weak. She would find herself tired and drained often having butterflies throughout the day, eating less than usual through worry followed by apathy and lethargy towards home life and revision in the evenings.
Behaviour wise, she kept it together at school as if nothing was wrong and then let loose at home on her parents, often shouting and releasing the pressure in angry outbursts and retreating into her room afterwards. There was little communication between her and her family or friends outside of school. She was closing herself off from the rest of the world.
A worry management intervention and 15 minutes each week, dedicated specifically to exam wellbeing was collaboratively decided with the MHST and the service user.
What helped the young person was listening and having the opportunity to say how she felt and being able to offload and prevent a “cooker pressure” scenario. The consistency of the appointments also ensured there was a regular opportunity to offload. The student had allocated time for exam wellbeing support and was given handouts after each session to support with revision, sleep, communication with parents and organisation, which were discussed.
It was also agreed that the student would update her parents about what was happening within the sessions which she did, and this also seemed to help.
Following her sessions, the student reported that she was no longer worrying and her mocks had gone smoother than she could have ever imagined. She had also arranged a trip out with her friends to signify the end of her mocks - something she had not managed to do for months due to her worry and anxiety. Her parents reported they had seen a significant improvement in her behaviour at home recently.
Amy Dunne, CAMHS Community Manager Mental Health Support Teams said:
“Our interventions have proven to be successful in achieving positive outcomes for many children whilst also providing strategies for future difficulties enabling an ongoing healthy wellbeing. Partnership working with schools is crucial for identifying and maintaining change and our approach to supporting the whole school community continues every day to ensure that we share new information, evidence and outcomes for ongoing development.”