MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT TEAM

Solent NHS Trust logoBackground

Following government reviews on Children’s Mental Health and Mental Health Services, a need for a collaborative approach was identified to tackle early signs of mental health issues. This aims to put schools and colleges in the heart of early intervention by developing and building on whole school approaches to mental health in the hope to prevent mental health difficulties from escalating. This is where the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) comes in.

For more information, see the Future in Mind report and the green paper.

The aim

MHST hopes to be able to help families by expanding capacity for early intervention whilst supporting schools and colleges to assist with ongoing support. They aim to provide interventions to support those with mild to moderate needs whilst assisting with the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing together with education. This will go beyond one-to-one work with families to include the development of self-help resources and access to up to date reliable information on mental health.

They hope to support schools and colleges to build a collective understanding of local services to signpost and support families, as well as access to specialised help.

Whole school approaches

MHST is a new service and the evidence base on how to deliver the various elements of the whole school approach is still developing. However they hope that by working closely with schools they can identify issues and problem solve these together though strategies such as:

  • Identifying and responding to need
  • Consultations
  • Teacher training
  • Teaching about mental health
  • Work to improve engagement of parents, carers and pupils.

In short, the Mental Health Support Team:

  • Work directly with families and children and young people who have mild to moderate anxiety and depression.
  • Can offer training/workshops based on the needs of the school.
  • Can offer a supervision type space for staff to reflect on practice and grow ideas.
  • Offer consultations to discuss families who require support.
  • Brainstorm ideas with school staff in how to support families.
  • Facilitate discussions on the function of behaviour.

Schools should make contact with MHST ([email protected]) for consultation and support for MHST referral where appropriate.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Working with parents

The work of MHST follows the information from the book ‘Helping Your Child With Fears and Worries’ and aims to teach parents cognitive behavioural strategies to use with their child to overcome difficulties with anxiety. Time is spent on reflecting on what works best for the family, and guiding parents in adapting strategies to meet their child’s individual needs, as well as providing opportunity for practice.

Why with parents?

Insight
Parents are the experts when it comes to their children. They will have a better understanding of their child’s responses and what will encourage and motivate them to try different things.

Practicalities
Parents often play an essential role in setting the pace and timings of when strategies can be implemented at home.

Continuality
Parents are often the ones that are present during the struggles and challenges their child is facing and can support their child both in between sessions and well beyond the end of the service’s involvement.

SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

Direct work with children and young people

MHST work with children and young people with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. They use cognitive behaviour therapy informed interventions to make changes in the way young people think and behave, improving their outlook on life.

They can help young people who avoid situations, or worry frequently due to their anxiety. They also work with young people who feel low, and may have decreased motivation to do things, or experience negative thoughts.

What to look out for

Anxiety:

  • Specific phobias or fears
  • Lots of ‘what if’ worries – expecting bad things to happen
  • Avoiding being away from their parents
  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviours
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety
  • Avoiding feared situations
  • Avoiding parties/sleepovers.

Low mood:

  • Reduced engagement in hobbies
  • Isolating more
  • Easily irritated
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Poor appetite/sleep
  • Speaking negatively of themselves.