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Mental Health Question Time

Mental Health Question TimeRoS attended the ‘Mental Health Question Time’ event organised by the National Elf Service and hosted at UCL last night, 21st February 2018. You can watch the footage here.

Panellists and their comments included:

  • Dr Dominique Thompson (GP and student mental health expert) told us about the sharp increase in mental health issues in young people. One in four young women aged 16-24 report a mental health issue, teen suicide has increased by 79% over 8 years and research shows that university students are not as happy as their non-student counterparts. Dominique has also noted that there has been a big cultural shift in setting the bar higher and higher in regards to results. Graduates have moved away from seeing university as a “life experience” and now feel pressure to achieve a first. She feels we need to do more to prepare students for the transition from school to university or the workplace.
  • Lucinda Powell (Former psychology teacher, now working with schools and organisations to empower them to improve mental health and wellbeing amongst young people). Lucinda feels that the government Green Paper is unclear about what it means by a”whole school approach” and vague about who should take the designated lead on mental health in schools. Is there going to be a separate role created or are teachers going to be asked to take responsibility?
  • Mary George (Mental health blogger, Time to Change Young Champion, History student at Oxford University). Mary wants mental health to be part of the school curriculum which would include tools to look after our mental health in the same way that we look after our physical heath. Students who do not present as high risk should also have access to help.
  • Dr Susanne Schweizer (Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow, Blakemore Lab, UCL)  feels that we do not have the evidence base yet to implement policy. Should policy be targeted or universal? We need to understand what works for whom. She cited the Wellcome Trust funded MYRIAD project that has been universally rolled out across schools as having cost £7 million pounds, but that we don’t yet know if mindfulness has been effective. And if it has, how and why. Susanne questions if it may be better to target specific risk groups, such as children of parents who have a mental health issue, although these projects can run the risk of stigmatisation within schools.
  • Dr Jane Godsland (Editor-in-chief of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health) finds the government Green Paper to be disappointing, the proposals oversimplistic and some aspects of it, premature. She feels that mental health policy should be evidence based and wasn’t sure that the extra work and inteventions that overworked schools are being asked to implement would translate into results. Jane agreed that mental health First Aid is a good idea but asks where the evidence is that this will help students in the long term. She also highlighted that each school would have different needs and that pupils themselves need to be consulted as this helps with policy implementation.
  • Dr Gemma Knowles (Epidemiologist and Researcher on The REACH Study, KCL) runs the research project REACH, happening across 12 schools in South London, where she and her team are work closely with 4.5 thousand young people to collect data on their mental health. This is a cohort study that aims to understand the risk factors that can develop into mental health issues. They are also running a more in-depth study with 600 adolescents that will be followed over 3 years. Gemma has found the schools and students to be very engaged, and this research is also helping to raise awareness around these issues.
  • Brenda McHugh (Co-Director of the Service for Schools at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and co-founder of the Family School London) highlighted the need to include the “hidden population” of 48,000 marginalised children that are not known by the DfE through expulsion or removal from schools into PRUs. She wants more research and provision to be made for these children and their families as they are at a very high risk of developing mental health issues. Brenda would like to see a researcher-in-residence in schools that could look at what is going on now and run small projects that could be implemented immediately.

Don’t forget to send us your thoughts on this subject by next Monday so we can send our reponse to the government’s green paper. See our statement here.


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