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Young people urge the Prime Minister to commit to long-term funding for in-school mental health services

Last week, Place2Be joined students from our partner school, Ark King Solomon Academy, as part of a new campaign calling for mental health support in schools. The group of sixth form politics students came to Downing Street urging the Prime Minister to commit to long-term funding for in-school mental health services.

A group of 5 politics students from Ark King Soloman Academy, standing outside Downing Street with their teacher and CEO of Place2Be, Catherin Roche

In a letter to the Prime Minister written by the students during Children’s Mental Health Week, they told him about the long-lasting, negative impact that poor mental health has on them. They talk about the influence of social media and lockdowns taking a toll.

Place2Be has been working with the whole school community at Ark King Solomon Academy for 11 years. The students highlighted the benefit of having this mental health support in their school. They called on the Prime Minister to invest in services such as Place2Be’s so that each pupil can get help when they need it.

Labour's Shadow Education Spokesperson, Baroness Twycross, heard about their campaign. The group was grateful to meet with her and she listened to the students share their ideas for wider educational reforms.

Place2Be then joined as the students went straight to Downing Street to personally give their letter to the Prime Minister to consider.

You can read the contents of the letter in full below:

Dear Prime Minister

We are writing to you following this year’s Children's Mental Health Week, asking you to fulfil your commitments to young people and to act to improve our wellbeing. We want to share our concerns about the rising mental health issues that we are experiencing as a generation and call for urgent investment in mental health services for children and young people.

Positive relationships are crucial to overall happiness and wellbeing at school. However, poor mental health can lead to poor academic performance, a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. It can lead to a ripple effect as our support systems break down, inevitably impacting our futures. Furthermore, mental health can affect young people in disadvantaged communities even more as we do not have the means to reach out to specialist services in our local area. Some young people are too afraid to seek help because of the stigma that exists within some families and communities. By not accessing the proper support, we have seen some of our peers turn down a negative path, which means they now have fewer opportunities.

We are seeing many young people becoming isolated, spending more time at home and not socialising with friends outside. We have also seen children being influenced by those around them and seeking validation from unrealistic role models on social media platforms. This can lead to some young people feeling they are not as good as those they see online, impacting their self-esteem and creating a sense of loneliness.

We need safe spaces to discuss the pressures of being a young person trying to navigate the world. We have faced so many challenges, including a global pandemic. These traumatic events continue to impact our wellbeing and affect how we can move forward. We know many children have not had the chance to build healthy bonds with adults who can help them to develop resilience and navigate difficult situations.

A recent NHS report found that one in five young people aged 8-16 have a probable mental disorder. We also know that mental health is one of the main reasons that young people do not come to school. Even 90% attendance equates to four weeks (nearly a whole month) of missed school. This has a detrimental effect on children’s education and their prospects. The government is responsible for moving the focus onto mental health provisions so that schools can help children return to classrooms and value their education.

In a worrying report from the National Association of Head Teachers in 2022, nearly half (47%) of schools said they would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year. This included cutting back on vital services such as counselling, therapy, and mental health support. This is the wrong direction if we want to see all children happy, safe, and confident in schools. It directly impacts the progress of organisations like Place2Be, and others dedicated to reaching young people.

We are lucky to have Place2Be at our school, but there is a waiting list because the service can't meet demand. The counsellors have helped many students: "Place2Be helped me when I was struggling personally with panic attacks; my teacher realised and referred me, and I was able to talk out my feelings and learn some really cool breathing exercises, which have helped when I feel one happening again." Another student said, "Place2Be has been my saviour. I have been through some really traumatic experiences, and I can't even think about what would have happened if I didn't have consistent support from my person. She was someone I came to trust, who I could be completely myself with, who through talking, and drawing helped me through these situations. I cannot be more thankful to have had this.”

Every school should have someone students can go to for help with their mental wellbeing. We urge you to collaborate with other agencies to ensure that mental health is incorporated into more comprehensive child-related policies, such as education and family support. Children should be encouraged to talk about their feelings and emotions. This could involve efforts to destigmatise mental health conditions and encourage early intervention, as well as more accessibility to programmes for mental health education and therapy. We want the government to provide more funding for meetings with parents to discuss parenting styles that focus on regulating emotions rather than punishment. In addition, implementing a full-time therapist or counsellor in every school would allow children to communicate with a specialist to help them feel more secure in their concerns. We want to see increased funding for specialised spaces in schools, including sensory rooms, and more funding for sports, art, and drama so students have spaces to release their emotions in safer environments.

Mr Sunak, we ask you to deliver on your promises to build a better future for young people. We need urgent support in all schools, now. We believe that funding children's mental health services is not only a moral duty, but also a calculated investment in our society's future.

We would like to invite you to visit our school to meet with us to discuss ideas for improving mental health provision for young people.

This Children's Mental Health Week, we urge you to hear our voice and show your support.

Yours sincerely,

Sixth Form students from Ark King Solomon Academy

 

The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week 2024 was My Voice Matters, and we encouraged children and young people to use their voices and share what matters to them. You can learn more, and access our free resources for schools, on the Children’s Mental Health Week website.

 

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