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Mental Health: Young People

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

8. What steps his Department is taking to help prevent mental health illness among young people. (912120)

We are committed to improving early intervention and prevention to ensure that young people with mental health problems do get the best start and the earliest possible treatment. To that end, we are introducing new school-based mental health support teams. The first 59 of these will start being operational by the end of December this year. The next wave of 124 more teams was announced on 12 July.

With half of all lifetime cases of mental ill health beginning at the age of 14, will the Minister say how well the training promised to constituencies such as mine will help to stop these problems worsening as people get older?

My hon. Friend is right: people with mental health conditions do tend to develop them as children. Clearly, the earlier we can give them support to help them manage those conditions, the better for their long-term wellbeing. Equally, however, we need to make sure we have sufficient community services when they leave school and get older, so that having invested in their wellbeing, it can be continued through later life.

Is the Minister confident that the mental health of the 5,000 children with special educational needs who spent time in school isolation booths last year was not harmed, and if not, what representations has she made to the Secretary of State for Education about this practice?

The hon. Gentleman, as usual, raises a very important issue indeed. Of course, people with special educational needs will be at risk of mental ill health more than any other cohort of children. I am having regular meetings with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who has responsibility for children and families, about this very vulnerable group. Having targeted mental health provision across mainstream schooling generally and put in such investment, we now really need to home in on the groups at highest risk.

Will the Minister outline what discussions have taken place with the devolved Administrations to ensure that best practice and best results are implemented UK-wide, especially considering that Northern Ireland has the highest level of mental health issues pro rata in the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

As usual, the hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. Of course, health is a devolved matter, but that is not to say that all four nations cannot learn more from best practice in each place. I am pleased to say that we are now increasing our contact with representatives of the devolved Governments, and we will very much be sharing such best practice.

Referrals to child mental health units from primary schools for pupils aged 11 and under have risen by nearly 50% in three years. BBC research last week also found that primary school children are self-harming at school, and in four cases children under 11 had attempted suicide while at school. This is deeply shocking, so what is the Minister doing to ensure that primary school children will have support from trained mental health professionals when they return in September?

The hon. Lady is quite right to raise that, and it is incredibly troubling to see those figures. The investment we are making in mental health support teams will be of assistance. For primary schools that are well led and gripping this issue, there is some very imaginative and innovative practice to bring emotional wellbeing into the classroom from the moment pupils arrive. We need to make sure that those mental health teams start acting as soon as possible. This is something that we need to address collectively with schools and as a society to make sure that we get treatment to people at the earliest possible time.