Mental health trailblazers

Ella Rhodes reports.

Government plans to increase the reach of mental health services for children and young people are now underway with the trial of 59 new mental health support teams across 25 trailblazer sites in England. Each team, which will work within schools and other education settings, will feature four Education Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs) who are trained to provide one-on-one therapy to children and young people, and will also work with families and school staff to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The government announced, in its 2017 Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision green paper, that Mental Health Support teams would be introduced and has set out aims to roll out these teams to cover a fifth to a quarter of the country by the end of 2022/23. A further 57 trailblazer sites, covered by 123 Mental Health Support Teams, was announced in July last year – each team will support up to 8000 children and young people and cover up to 20 education settings. Among the first newly-trained EMHPs is psychology and criminology graduate Naomi Marturano.  

Since completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Southampton Marturano has worked on various research projects with children and young people – including work evaluating services and interventions. She also worked with a mental health charity running a participation project and working as a wellbeing advisor and had a role with her local council within a community group for isolated adults.

‘I found the EMHP advert and thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity, I knew I wanted to work with children and young people from my work as a research assistant and before I graduated I’d looked into the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service for adults as a potential path and did some volunteering for my local IAPT service helping to run psychoeducation groups.’

Marturano has completed her training at the University of Exeter, starting in January 2019. The cohort has worked on various placements within primary and secondary schools, been trained in one-to-one CBT interventions and psychoeducation groups which can be run for children or their parents, as well as learning how to support schools in setting up peer-mentoring groups. ‘As part of taking a whole-school approach we’ve had teaching on how to train others. We will also be available to staff for consultation to help them support particular students and their mental health. We do this by helping staff to reflect on a problem and draw on their own knowledge and skills to find a solution.’

Marturano said she hoped the programme would be effective in helping to provide earlier intervention for children and young people with mild to moderate mental health problems. ‘Currently mental health services are really stretched but ultimately if we can offer effective support with these strategies and techniques, children and young people won’t have to carry their difficulties into adulthood.

‘It’s a fantastic scheme to get more mental health practitioners into schools, into the community, and to be able to help these young people. Children and young people can spend a lot of time on waiting lists and can often experience a deterioration in their mental health before they get any help, that’s no fault of any service but it’s just where we find ourselves in the current climate of cuts. I think it’s brilliant this initiative has been funded.’ 

The British Psychological Society has produced a briefing paper on how to maximise the impact of Mental Health Support Teams which will be available to all the teams through the NHS England information hub. 

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