Government backs peer-to-peer school mental health support

By Adam Offord

| 06 July 2015

Introducing peer-to-peer support networks in schools will form part of government efforts to improve the mental health of young people, it has emerged.

Ministers from the Department for Education and Department of Health giving evidence to the youth select committee. Picture: British Youth Council

Giving evidence to a youth select committee inquiry into mental health issues faced by young people, childcare minister Sam Gyimah, who is also responsible for child and adolescent mental health services, said the government is keen to allow young people to help each other address problems they are experiencing.

“I think we can do a lot more around peer-to-peer support," he said.

"Often, whether it is bullying or some of the things that cause [mental health problems] in the first place, young people are there and they see it happening to their friends.

"So what can we do on a big scale to actually get peer-to-peer support working as part of our response to dealing with young people's mental health issues?” he said.

The government has previously announced it is taking action to improve the way schools tackle mental health issues.

This includes work with the PSHE Association to develop guidance on how mental health issues are taught in schools.

The government is also keen on school-based counselling services.

Gyimah along with social care minister Alistair Burt told the youth select committee, which is affiliated to the British Youth Council, that their respective departments, the Department for Education and the Department of Health, are working together to improve mental health provision for young people.

Gyimah said: “We have already got events planned in the diary through to October that both the DfE and DH are working on together and we do recognise and acknowledge that this is the way to make progress.

“We are as one – in terms of not just the mission but how to get there.”

Burt added: “Our departments have their own responsibilities but the process of politics means that at the level which we operate as ministers, it is very easy for us to get together.

“We will do our best in government to deliver on that and that is right from this department right across all our other partners in dealing with things like mental health."

Burt told the committee that he would like the inquiry report to contain views on the government's Future in Mind report and how its proposals can be implemented, as well as suggestions on improving children and young people’s safety online and ideas for future digital mental health software applications.

He said the government would also welcome suggestions on how to improve participation of children and young people in policymaking and implementation.

The youth select committee is made up of 11 members aged from 13 to 18 years old, including two members of UK Youth Parliament (UKYP), two youth councillors, a young mayor, and one elected representative from each of the devolved nations.  

Mental health was chosen as the priority campaign by the UK Youth Parliament in their annual House of Commons debate in November last year.

The report of the mental health inquiry is due to be published later this year.

blog comments powered by Disqus