Schools are a vital part of children and young people lives. As such a positive professional and supportive learning environment is essential to the positive and healthy development of young people.

Schools are not only important in the treatment and recovery from mental health issues but also in the prevention of such problems.

Therapeutic education as a solution for children and young people who struggle with the mainstream education environment for various reasons, is gaining more recognition as the need among young people is more recognised.

Ellern Mede School has recently expanded its range of services to include therapeutic education options for a wider range of young people. The school also offers liaison support to the child’s home school and local authority ensuring that what is gained in the therapeutic environment is sustained. We recognise that while support in mainstream schools is a good idea – it is not easy to offer, making schools which are expressly dedicated for this role very important.

Here we republish an excerpt of a blog written by Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of a charity called Place2Be, that provides in-school support. The blog was published online by the Association of Children and Adolescent Mental Health, ACAMH.

Catherine writes: “Sometimes you feel like a volcano erupting,” one eight-year-old boy told us, “but if you come to Place2Be, you can cool down.”

“Learning how to ‘cool down’ when things become stressful or overwhelming is a skill that we all need at some point in our lives. But when problems become too big for children to cope with on their own, it is vital they know who to turn to for support – whether that is a friend or family member, a teacher, or a mental health professional.

“It’s not difficult to see the appeal of placing professional mental health support in the school environment. Not only does working in the school setting enable us to reach children and families without stigma, but also by working in close partnership with teachers and school staff we can intervene earlier before issues develop to the point of needing support from specialist services. Through a ‘whole school approach’, we can promote positive mental health and self-care to help children and young people develop the resilience and coping strategies they need to face life’s challenges.

“However the school environment also poses its own challenges.”

Catherine quotes research that shows 78% of schools say financial constraints are a barrier, and around 50% don’t have a counselling service available.

Integrating health and education

Catherine advocates that schools and CAMHS services build close ties. The key to avoiding educational disruption AND securing early intervention for young people is bringing health and education closer together in the same way as Ellern Mede School works closely with Ellern Mede Group clinicians.

She also discusses a model of ‘step up’ when treatment is needed and ‘step down’ when a child is ready to leave specialist help but needs to avoid the “cliff edge” of lost support. In the wider world,. This is something Ellern Mede School is expert in doing, setting up post discharge educational support with community health services and home schools.

Catherine concludes: “Only when we bridge the gap between education and health and with the necessary investment can we truly begin to see the transformation in services that children and young people deserve.”

Catherine Roche is Chief Executive of Place2Be, a leading children’s mental health charity providing in-school support and expert training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff. Read the original blog here.