Details for Mental health support in schools: 'Families don’t have to spend years on waiting lists'

When Grace Hartill was 11, she began to show the first signs of anxiety. Within a few years, the Barnsley schoolgirl had become withdrawn and had stopped wanting to see her friends.

“It was awful,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave my bedroom because I felt like if I did, something would happen to me or somebody I loved. Home was where I felt safest, so I just isolated myself. I barely went to school.”

As her mental health worsened, she was referred to child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) but was on the waiting list for two years. When she finally did get treatment, it didn’t help. She adds: “Camhs and the other services I tried just didn’t help. I felt like the therapists didn’t want to be there.”

It wasn’t until a groundbreaking service, MindSpace, launched in her school that Grace began to experience some relief. Funded by Barnsley clinical commissioning group (CCG) through its Future in Mind fund, the initiative works by embedding mental health practitioners in secondary schools so children don’t have to be taken out of school to access treatment. The scheme, originally piloted last academic year by 10 schools and officially launched in October 2017, aims to tackle poor mental health while bypassing traditional services, which are seeing rising demand coupled with insufficient capacity.

Consisting of three primary health practitioners, a parent counsellor, a family support worker and an emotional health support worker, the MindSpace team offers one-to-one sessions and groups for specific issues such as bereavement. It is led by Michelle Sault, head of extended services at the Wellspring Academy Trust, who came up with the idea after running a pupil referral unit, and seeing children who she believed didn’t belong there.

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Struggling with mental illness and nowhere to go? Find out how Catholic Charities  can help.