A motion put forward by the Green Group of Councillors in Brighton and Hove Council calling for greater support for combating mental health issues in schools has passed at a full meeting of the council last night (31 January).
The motion called for the Chief Executive of Brighton and Hove Council to write to the Secretary of State for Education with a request that the government brings forward 10-year plans to expand school and college-based mental health services. The aim is to enable 100 per cent of children and young people to access specialist care by 2030, and to put in place adequate funding so that schools and teachers can implement mental health work in schools.
Furthermore, the motion called for the council to continue its support for the improvement of mental health services for young people in the city, and to request officers bring a report to the Children, Young People and Skills Committee - this would detail how the council can work with schools to promote the development of greater preventative activities for anxiety and depression, as well as how it can develop and share best practice on restricting access to mobile phones in the classroom to prevent cyberbullying, and how it will ensure teachers and staff have adequate access to training and support.
The issue of mental health problems in young people has become more acute in recent years, with around 15 per cent of 14- to 16-year-olds in Brighton and Hove saying they often have suicidal thoughts, while the number of 10- to 24-year-olds admitted to hospital for self-harm in the city is higher than anywhere else in the rest of England.
Education professionals have criticised the government’s recent NHS Long Term Plan after it emerged that pledges for increased youth mental health support would only reach 345,000 children by 2024. Greens say the government plans ‘ignore the immediate needs of thousands of our children.’
Councillor Amanda Knight, who put forward the proposals, said before the full council meeting: “Support for our children and young people’s mental health must remain a priority. The rates of anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts among young people in the city continue to be deeply worrying, and mental health support can be a life-changing intervention.
“While fantastic work is underway in our city to support mental health, current central government funding has not been able to provide the levels of support our schools need. Their current plans to reach a handful of pupils by 2030 are completely inadequate, and ignore the immediate needs of thousands of our children.
“Children and young people are also facing complex challenges to their mental health – such as the long-term use of mobile phones, navigating social media and problems such as ‘sexting’ and cyberbullying. Without advice and guidance, many of our children will struggle to deal with these issues. Child mental health services in the city have also said that anxiety has become a key issue raised by young people. Best practice in prevention, everything from meditation to support with healthy eating, physical activity and support for personal, social and health education have been proven to help.
“Our school staff cannot be expected to pick up the burden of cuts to health services made by the government – and as a result of budget cuts arising from changes to the national funding formula, schools are under increasing pressure. This is why I urge the council and our family of schools to work together to focus on what prevention work is available to us.”
The motion was passed by the council in unusual circumstances. Due to heavy snow in Brighton a Closure Motion was carried by the council to enable councillors to leave the council building before conditions worsened, resulting in all motions that had not yet been debated being passed. As the motion on additional mental health support in schools had not been debated at the time, it was passed with the Closure Motion.