More than 150 education mental health practitioners have been trained in the Midlands between September 2019 and January 2021.
NHS research suggests since the pandemic and lockdown one in six children and young people may now have a mental health problem – up from one in nine in 2017.
Children and young people's mental health services have remained open throughout the pandemic, adapting to deliver services remotely where appropriate.
Mental health support teams run text services offering advice or providing families with tips on how to spot when children and young people are struggling with their mental health. The teams also help staff within schools and colleges through training sessions for parents or workshops for teachers.
Staffordshire was one of the first pilot trailblazer sites and supports more than 60 schools in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. The team has worked to ensure that whole school approaches are adopted and fit the individual needs of each school.
The team provided additional support to teachers including training and attending assemblies, parent’s evenings and any additional meetings and events that the educational provider felt would be beneficial.
Teachers and mental health leads in the schools now describe the mental health support team as ‘part of the team’, extending an invitation into schools even during the most difficult of Covid-19 lockdowns, as they recognised the support that the service offered to both teachers and pupils and how the team enhanced the offer the schools could provide during these very challenging times.
St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Stoke-on-Trent has said that being part of the trailblazer project has transformed the provision of mental health support that they are able to offer within the school.
Claire Consterdine, mental health support team manager for north and south Stoke, said: “My team is amazing, it really is. Team members completed their training year then were launched into practising in a very different way just as they qualified.
"They do what they are trained to do and do it well, then they add commitment, compassion and empathy all the while keeping the child at the centre helping them to thrive.
"The frontline has been mentioned a lot over the last 12 months and for children’s wellbeing and mental health it’s us and will be for a long time to come, and we are ready."
Giles Tinsley, programme director for mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “Our mental health support teams have worked tirelessly and have trailblazed some creative and innovative initiatives that will be rolled out across the country which have made a really positive difference to the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
"Throughout the pandemic, these teams have continued to work virtually, providing vital support for young people during lockdown.
“Education mental health practitioners, a new workforce trained by universities across the country, form the core of the teams. They work alongside senior therapists to deliver evidence-based mental health support.
"Their training includes how to ensure help is supportive and inclusive. It also covers awareness of issues that can increase need experiencing trauma and/or disadvantage.
“The NHS England and NHS Improvement regional team is leading local areas through the process. Jointly delivered with the Department for Education and Health Education England, our mental health support teams act as a link with local children and young people’s mental health services and are supervised by NHS staff.
"The service has never been more needed during these challenging times and is having a hugely positive impact upon children, young people and schools in the region.”
Further plans for the development of children and young people’s mental health care are described in the NHS Long Term Plan and set out in detail for local areas in the Mental Health Implementation Plan.