Finding a hidden gem for mental health

NHS England’s National Transformation Adviser for Children and Young People’s mental health welcomes the evaluation of the CYP Schools Pilots:

Over the last eighteen months there has been a lot of interest in  schools and their role in emotional and mental health and well-being – and rightly so.

Schools play such an important role in our young lives. I don’t know about you but, even at my age, I can still remember the teachers who I respected, listened to and talked with in my teenage years. The fact I remember their names, Mr Nicholls and Mr Wiltshire, says it all for me.

People often ask me about how to work with schools effectively. They worry about  getting it right, about  differences in governance arrangements and the plurality of types of schools. They mention the differences in culture and understanding of emotional and mental health and well-being, for example the difference between behaviour difficulties and mental health disorders.   It won’t surprise anyone that I have similar conversations with my colleagues in schools about how they can work with mental health services.

The language, terminologies and primary emphasis is different. However, I often think we are using different words to mean the same thing. We need to get better at the translation of language and meaning across professions. And, for me, we have more in common than difference and we all want to help children and young people have the best start in life. Perhaps we need to focus and build on the ‘common-ground’ rather than the differences.

I welcome this month’s publication of the evaluation of the Schools pilots which have taken place across 22 Local Authorities, 27 CCGs and 255 Schools, sponsored by Department for Education and NHS England.

There are some very important messages within the evaluation especially regarding the ‘how’ we work together to build a ‘common ground’ across provision and to support schools in their vital role.

The evaluation draws attention to the importance and value of improving communication and engagement between partners, in this case schools and wider mental health and well-being provision The breaking down of barriers and benefits in understanding how each party works was  reflected in better quality and more appropriate referrals being made.

This is very significant as one of the challenges across Children’s Services, including mental health provision, is the management of demand. Greater understanding across provision is vital for improving pathways and referrals and is one factor in reducing demand.

I think there is a hidden gem in this report in that the benefits have been felt wider than the immediate staff involved in the pilots. This is reflected in quantifiable improvement in staff knowledge and awareness.  This reflects one of my views that transformation is sometimes like throwing a stone into a pond, it creates a ripple effect which goes far beyond the original intention.

The Future in Mind and Mental Health Five Year Forward View runs until 2020.  Although many of the pebbles we have already thrown in the pond will take time to have effect, this evaluation gives us a welcome opportunity to recognise the ripple effect taking place and make sure we continue to harness the opportunities they create.

Frank McGhee

Frank McGhee has worked for over 30 years in children’s services, with senior management roles in the NHS and Local Government.

He is currently Director of Integrated Commissioning for children and young people working across Southern Derbyshire CCG and Derby City Council. This includes leading the Future in Mind programme and is seconded to NHS England on a part-time basis as the National Transformation Advisor.

He started his career working directly with young people and remains focused on wanting to see significant impact from the Future in Mind programme.

One comment

  1. william Hunt RMN SRN says:

    I wonder, how do “faith” schools fair in the incidence of mental distress within their pupils. Does a clear and confident philosophy within their educational institution help or hinder young people in coping mechanisms? Do government policies in the promotion of independent “Faith” schools take this into consideration. Some might say young people have too much choice, not enough guidance….others say dogma leads to confusion and stress in a apparently empirical society.