Mental Health Support for UK school children

What is mental health

Mental health is all about how we think, feel, learn, and behave. We all have phases when we feel down, stressed or afraid. Most of the time those feelings pass, but sometimes they develop into a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.

It is essential to remember mental health problems can happen to anybody, including young children. This can appear as physical characteristics of anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and also neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism at a very early age. Young children respond and handle emotional encounters and distressing events in ways that differ from adults or older children. Subsequently, diagnosis in early childhood can be much more difficult than it is in adults.

A mentally healthy child reaches all their developmental and emotional milestones, as well as learning strong social skills along with being able to cope when there is an issue. These milestones and goals will therefore help give the child a positive quality of life, meaning they can function well at home, in school and in their communities.

Numerous children go through fears and worries or display troublesome behaviours. If there are signs that are serious and constant and interfere with school, home or activities, the child may be diagnosed with a mental disorder.

Services a school can offer a child suffering with mental health issue’s

Pastoral support

There is a duty of care in every school meaning all teachers owe pupils the care and respect they deserve. The school must do what is practical to ensure they care for their pupils as any parent would. The class teacher is normally the main point of contact for the child during the day. This means that if a pupil is experiencing mental health difficulties, they can speak to this teacher. Depending on the sincerity of the difficulty, this teacher can either speak to the pupil themselves or refer them to the head teacher, who can call upon more specialist help.


This is a professional movement delivered by qualified practitioners in schools. Counsellors offer troubled and distressed children or young people an opportunity to talk about their difficulties in confidentiality.

Schools are not lawfully obliged to offer school-based counselling. However, counselling services can still be accessed through voluntary sector community-based services, private practices, GPs and specialist children’s mental health services. Counselling is confidential unless there are safeguarding concerns. Child protection concerns and the welfare of children and young people can at times take priority over confidentiality. The counsellor should explain confidentiality and its limitations to the child or young person at the very start of the counselling.  

Depending on the circumstances of the child and if the counsellor has welfare concerns they should speak to their clinical supervisor, line manager and if appropriate, then the  designated safeguarding leader within the school. The ruling to share the knowledge should be one that is carefully done.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services-

If a school believes that a child or young adult needs or would benefit from a more medical approach and treatment for mental health difficulties, they can refer the child to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). They specialise in children and young people’s mental health services. They have a selection of trained mental health professionals as follows:

  • Social workers
  • Counsellors
  • Family therapists
  • Primary mental health workers
  • Outreach workers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychotherapists

There are also Helplines

Helplines are not long-term solutions, but can offer advice, self-management strategies and help children and young people while they are waiting to access local support.

Different types of mental health issues-

Mental health can really affect children causing them challenges at school. There are a number of mental health issues that a child could have as well as a long line of symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Low mood
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar affective disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Self-harming behaviour
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • Learning disabilities


There are a lot of people and places there to support your child. There are now many practices in place such as NHS mental health support teams. They have been placed in 4,700 schools and colleges across the country, with 287 expert teams offering support to children facing anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues. The NHS has now launched a 24/7 crisis support line, face-to-face, telephone and digital appointments system so issues can be identified and help given sooner.

Tips to support your children or young people:

  • Make sure they are eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise for good physical health;
  • Give them time and freedom to play indoors and outdoors making sure they get fresh air;
  • Be there to listen. Regularly ask how they are doing so they get used to talking about their feelings;
  • Make sure they are part of an inclusive family and engage well;
  • Encourage their interests – Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all improve our mental health;
  • Take them to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils, as well as having supportive teachers that care for all students.
  • Allowing them to take part in local activities- Perhaps this could be a sport of some kind or a community event.
  • Build positive routines – We know it still may not be easy, but try to reintroduce structure around regular routines, healthy eating, and exercise. A good night’s sleep is also very important.
  • Take the child seriously with what they tell you – Listening and valuing what they say without judging their feelings, in turn makes them feel valued.

Keeping them active and involved can really help with their wellbeing. Making sure they have interaction and communication and something to do to keep their brain going.

If you feel your child is in need of support, call your GP, let your school know and keep up communication with your child to make sure you are aware of how they are feeling.

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