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Brent teachers playing crucial role in spotting signs of kids with mental health issues

PUBLISHED: 13:32 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:07 02 July 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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Teachers are playing a crucial role in spotting signs of schoolchildren suffering with mental health issues, as the number of Brent students being referred to hospitals drops.

Brent Cllr Mili Patel, responsible for children's safeguarding at Brent Council. Photographer: Justin ThomasBrent Cllr Mili Patel, responsible for children's safeguarding at Brent Council. Photographer: Justin Thomas

The borough’s schools are increasingly taking up support from both Brent council and mental health charities to ensure that staff can provide a “front line of support” for struggling kids.

The number of pupils referred to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which offers support to children, families and teachers at Brent schools, is at its lowest level in four years.

According to figures published by the NSPCC in May, the trust received 785 requests for professional help for troubled youngsters in 2017-18, compared to 960 the previous year.

Charity Place2Be works in 15 primary schools across the borough, as well as Ark Elvin Academy, in the hope of providing early intervention against mental health issues that many young people carry into their adult lives.

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

Sarah Kendrick, head of service at Place2Be 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.”

One of the schools working in tandem with Place2Be is Mitchell Brook Primary School, which has been described by the charity as a champion of mental health wellbeing.

Deputy headteacher Helen Box said: “We believe that children need to feel safe in order to develop friendships, learn and thrive at school and beyond.

Place2Be head of service Sarah Kendrick. Photo by Place2BePlace2Be head of service Sarah Kendrick. Photo by Place2Be

“There may be times when children feel especially sad, confused, fearful or angry for many different reasons. Children also react in very different ways to these big feelings that are often hard to cope with. Some may become withdrawn; others may display quite challenging behaviour.

“Having Place2Be to support children and families is so important. It is an invaluable support at Mitchell Brook.

“It helps to build children’s confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to cope with difficult life events, establish friendships and focus in class. This in turn makes school a happier place to be for all children and the school staff.”

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 see teachers from up and down the country coming together to discover the best mental health strategy for their individual school.

Training tracks how health issues can arise from a very young age when children feel detached from their parents or carers – this lack of attachment is something that the charity believes can be spotted by teachers in 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 register their interest at https://www.place2be.org.uk/london

The council has been running its Targeted Mental Health in Schools project since 2009, with training available to all teachers in the borough and health professionals available to visit schools on a weekly basis to provide support ranging from clinical psychology to drama and art therapy.

Cllr Mili Patel, responsible for children and families at the council, said: “Young people suffering with mental health are some of the most vulnerable in Brent so it is vital they receive the best care and support for their needs.

“By addressing this issue within schools, we are strengthening the links between education and health so that the right support is in place for children and young people and their families at the right point of need.”

The council has also launched a project called Safe Base Brent to provide psychological support for those aged 18 to 25 who have previously been looked after by the local authority.

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