Portsmouth student and doctor are among those calling for change to mental health services in schools

STUDENTS across Hampshire feel mental health needs to be talked about more in schools, according to a survey.

Saturday, 23rd March 2019, 5:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:57 pm
Dr Nick Broughton

More than 1,600 school and college students aged from 10 to 19 took part in the questionnaire and fewer than four in 10 felt their was adequate mental health services within their schools.

Portsmouth College student Josh Jones was among those who felt there needed to be change.

The 20-year-old said: ‘It would have really helped me if people spoke about mental health more casually, if people were more open about it. It was especially hard being a boy and having to open up, I feel like it’s seen as a sign of weakness.

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‘Also, whilst I had a certain member of staff I felt I could talk to, I didn't really know what services were available to me. It would have been great if services had been signposted to me, or if there was a certain space within school where I could have gone to seek help when I needed it.’

Only one in three of those asked said they felt comfortable talking about their mental health with others and 42 per cent said they would feel embarrassed to talk to their teacher.

Josh added: ‘I feel like mental health issues mainly start in school, kids go through so much and can have traumatic experiences both in and out of school life.

‘One way of coping which helped me was to find something I enjoyed, a hobby, and to just get involved and do it. I really hope the results from this survey can help develop the mental health services currently available to students.’

The results of the survey, commissioned as part of a joint project between NHS Trust, Southern Health, and youth-led social enterprise ‘Unloc’, will help to inform a series of four stand-alone ‘summit’ events held this spring, each over a full school-day and for up to 50 students from each local area.

Dr Nick Broughton, chief executive of Southern Health, said: ‘We want to have meaningful conversations with young people about their mental health, gain insights, offer more tailored support and better understand how we should involve young people on these issues in ways that are relevant to them.

‘We want to improve our relationships with local schools and colleges, using the youth summits to create a network of engaged young people we can work with on an ongoing basis.’

Southern Health, other NHS trusts and a wide range of charities such as ChildLine and Young Minds offer a range of mental health services and support to young people including talking therapy service ‘italk’ for those aged over 16, ‘ChatHealth’, a confidential text messaging service, early intervention in psychosis services for youngsters over the age of 14 and psychiatric inpatient care for 12-18 year-olds.

Less than two thirds of respondents said they would know who to contact if they were feeling low and 57 per cent were unaware of the variety of services available to help them.

Hayden Taylor, managing director of Unloc, said: ‘We’re really excited to be working with Southern Health to help provide young people with an opportunity to share ideas and suggestions for local healthcare improvement.

‘We’re also keen for young people to gain more knowledge and understanding of services available to them so they know where to go to seek help when they need it.’