Government plans announced last week to train 3,000 health professionals to go into schools and help students are a ‘great promise’ but likely to take ‘years before it actually happens’.
That’s the view of Chris Munday, chief executive of Crossways Community, the charity that currently leads assemblies and sessions in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge schools focusing on facing challenges, and spotting signs of mental issues.
“We think it is fantastic news that mental health is getting a higher profile,” he said.
“One of the problems is that it is not treated with the same seriousness as physical health.
Part of what we want to do is get the conversation going.” Mr Munday is cautious, however, and said more detail and timescale needs to be announced.
“It is a great promise but I don’t know how or when it is going to happen.
“More money is great, but where are those therapists going to come from? I think it is going to be years before it actually happens. “Also, how are the schools going to deal with this? School timetables are rammed.
“Mental health has got its place in the sun and I worry this is an easy thing to promise when NHS trusts are missing targets.”
Mr Munday believes that the high expectations of young people has been partly to blame for a rising number of students experiencing mental health problems.
He feels social media has changed how children see themselves.
“It seems to me the demands are going to get greater as young people are facing issues previous generations never had to cope with,” he said.
“Mental health problems can stem from a huge range of things. There is no question the demand for help is increasing and more people are coming forward.
“Children are always comparing themselves to other people. We can always find people who can run faster or look better. Before it was just someone on TV but social media has changed that.”
Crossways has been involved with a number of secondary schools including Skinners’ School, Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, St Gregory’s Catholic School, Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School and The Judd School.
The Christian charity is also works in primary schools to help leavers mentally prepare for the step up to Year 7. Previously speaking to the Times Mr Munday said ten per cent of children and young people (aged five to 16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem.
He added: “I am not from Tunbridge Wells and one of the things that struck me [having moved to the town] is that it is so posh and affluent.
“Everybody is expected to achieve and that is a pressure in itself. We kid ourselves if we say that mental health problems are not happening here.”