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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.5 Mental health

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/09/2020 - 13:07

On this page
  1. National strategy(ies)
  2. Improving the mental health of young people

National strategy(ies)

In 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan made a commitment to at least 345,000 more children and young people under 25 will have access to support through either NHS-funded mental health services or school/college mental health support teams by 2023 to 2024. It is part of a drive to offer a comprehensive model of care that covers children, young people and adults. It comes with the commitment to invest in new mental health support teams across 20% to 25% of schools and colleges nationwide and to ensure that crisis care is universally available 24/7 by 2023 to 2024. The NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019 to 2020 to 2023 to 2024 relates to the long term plan, and provides details of a new framework to help achieve the mental health specific commitments.

Public Health England’s 2020-2025 strategy lays out aims to contribute towards the Government’s aim in the Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Workplan to reduce suicides by 10% by 2021/22 and maintain a downward trend beyond 2022. They state “we will work towards ensuring mental health has parity with physical health, modelling the role that organisations can play as employers and embedding good mental health across PHE’s work.”

In January 2017, the Government responded to and accepted all recommendations set out in  The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health an all-age strategy up to 2020/21. In its response, the Government committed itself to securing  improvements in access to the high quality mental health care for children and young people previously set out in the 2015 report Future in Mind:

  • Local Transformation Plans were developed in 2015/16, setting out how local agencies will work together to improve children and young people’s mental health. These will be refreshed and integrated within new Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
  • Schools, colleges and local NHS services will be supported to work more closely together to provide dedicated children and young people’s mental health services, by evaluating emerging models and approaches, to explore the impact closer working can have.
  • Promising preventative programmes for use in schools will be evaluated.
  • A pilot programme of peer support in education and community settings and online will be launched.
  • All local areas will be expected to work with the existing Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP IAPT) programme to deliver post-graduate training in specific therapies. This will lead  to at least 3400 existing children and young people’s mental health service staff being trained by 2020/21.
  • the Care Quality Commission will be encouraged to undertake in depth review of children and young people’s mental health services in 2017/18.
  • New access and waiting times standards for children and young people with an eating disorder will be introduced. From April 2017, the target is that children and young people referred routinely to services should be seen within four weeks, and those referred for urgent help should be seen within one week. Treatment in accordance with the standards should be received by 95 per cent of those in need by 2020/21.

An Inter-Ministerial Group for Mental Health, chaired by the Secretary of State for Health, is being established to oversee implementation of the report’s recommendations and ensure policy alignment across government.

A cross-Government programme board has been established, chaired by the Department of health, and attended by senior representatives from all Government departments that are responding to this strategy.

NHS England has also published its implementation plan and established a programme board to oversee progress.

The cross-government all-age suicide strategy was issued in 2012 and was last updated in January 2017. The strategy identifies young men as a high-risk group. It also advises a tailored approach to reducing the suicide risk among  and. children and young people, including those who are vulnerable such as looked after children, care leavers and children and young people in the youth justice system.

Children and young people have an important place in this strategy. Schools, social care and the youth justice system, as well as charities highlighting problems such as bullying, low body image and lack of self-esteem, all have an important contribution to make to suicide prevention among children and young people. Measures to help parents keep their children safe online are included in area for action 5. The call for research to  support the strategy includes a focus on children and young people and self-harm (p. 6).

The Government will continue to work with the internet industry through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to create a safer online environment for children and young people. Recognising concern about misuse of the internet to promote suicide and suicide methods, we will be pressing to ensure that parents have the tools to ensure that their children are not accessing harmful suicide-related content online (p. 8).

The 2017 progress report stated the overall aim of reducing the national suicide rate by 10 percent by 2020/21. In terms of relevance to youth, it highlighted Government proposals and actions in this area, including:

  • Providing mental health first aid training in schools
  • Expanding pilots to establish single points of contact for mental health to more schools
  • Funding the PSHE Association to produce guidance on teaching about mental health problems
  • Providing funding to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Local authorities have had primary responsibility for coordinating and implementing work on suicide prevention since April 2013.

Public Health England issued guidance in 2016 to assist local authority public health teams to work with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), health and wellbeing boards, the voluntary sector and wider networks of partners to develop or update local suicide prevention plans.

Link to further information and annual suicide strategy implementation reports (latest January 2017).

The House of Commons Health Committee held an inquiry on suicide prevention which ended with the publication of its final report in March 2017.

This said (p.16):

We recognise the importance of promoting emotional wellbeing in order to tackle mental health problems in young people. We also note the importance of taking the opportunity to provide support for young people in distress, and at times of particular vulnerability, including in further and higher education settings. We are looking in further detail at children and young people’s mental health and education in our current joint inquiry with the Education Committee.

A guidance for parents and carers in supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic was published in June 2020. As part of the UK government’s COVID-19 response, £5 million was allocated in funding to community mental health projects in May 2020. This funding is delivered by mental health charity Mind in an effort to help existing services respond to the mental health and wellbeing challenges of the pandemic. 


Improving the mental health of young people

School-based counselling is one-to-one support, provided in school, by a trained professional counsellor to children and young people who are experiencing problems, and who are usually referred for counselling by their pastoral care teachers. Non-statutory government guidance aims to help primary and secondary schools to set up or improve existing school-based counselling services so that they achieve the best outcomes for children and young people. This also sets out the expectation that, over time, all schools should provide access to counselling services.

Colleges and universities offer confidential advice and support through their students union and from a range of student services and other agencies.

See also:

Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education (Eurydice national description)

Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education (Eurydice national description)

The Mental Health First Aid programme was announced by the Government in June 2017. Over a two-year period all secondary schools in England will receive practical advice on how to deal with issues such as depression and anxiety, suicide and psychosis, self-harm, and eating disorders. The programme will be backed in the first year by £200,000 in government funding, and delivered by the social enterprise Mental Health First Aid. Since 2019, this is currently provided by the Anna Freud Centre.  The training will take place across England in over 100 locations between 1st September 2019 - 31st March 2020. The training will be available for up to two members of staff from over 1900 eligible schools and colleges. This one-day training will be freely available to those schools who: have not yet received Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training in 2017 – 2018 and are a mainstream secondary school, sixth form college, Pupil Referral Unit or a Free School.

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)is used as a term for the NHS services that assesses and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. There are local NHS CAMHS services around the UK, with teams made up of nurses, therapists, psychologists, support workers and social workers, as well as other professionals.

Local areas have a number of different support services available. These might be from the statutory, voluntary or school-based sectors, such as an NHS trust, local authority, school or charitable organisation. These work together, through referrals to offer a range of provision.

For further information see the Young Minds guide to CAMHS and the section 'Health care' in the article 'Access to Quality Services'.

The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (CYP IAPT) delivered by NHS England aims to improve existing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) working in the community.

The Eating disorders programme is being delivered within the CYP IAPT programme framework.

Fulfilling Lives: HeadStart is a Big Lottery funded project which aims to give young people support and the skills to cope with adversity and do well at school and in life.

Focusing on providing a supportive environment around young people, a range of approaches are offered in schools and communities, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, staying safe online, tackling social media bullying and special resilience lessons.

HeadStart also provides targeted support to pupils showing risk factors, such as repeated absences and disruptive behaviour and also to particularly vulnerable groups, including young people in care.

Further information

In 2016, the Government worked with Young Minds in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (a charity which focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of young people) to launch ‘No harm done’, a series of films and toolkits that set out practical steps for young people, parents and health professionals to identify, understand and address self-harm.

Public Health England has published toolkits on preventing suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderyoung people, a collaboration with the Royal College of Nursing to support and develop the role of nurses in the prevention of suicides in the LGBT community.

In March 2017, the Department for Education published an analysis of the results of a call for evidence which it had issued on peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health.

A lot of the services in this area are provided through charities, e.g. the Samaritans and the Matthew Elvidge Trust .

PAPYRUS is the national charity for the prevention of suicide. It receives Big Lottery funding to:

  • provide confidential help and advice to young people and anyone worried about a young person
  • help others to prevent young suicide by working with and training professionals
  • campaign and influence national policy

Young Minds also receives Big Lottery Fund funding. The programmes it runs include:

The Mental Health Foundation works with young people directly and through schools to provide prevention-focused peer support and education. It hosts and campaigns with the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.

The Department for Education  introduced a Healthy Pupils Capital Programme in 20119. Funding will be available to primary and secondary schools and sixth-form colleges to improve facilities, including those that support young people struggling with mental health issues.

The programme is funded through the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.