Theresa May has today announced mental health training as part of the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme.   

While any investment into the mental health of young people is to be welcomed this programme appears to be very limited in its reach. NCS is only available to 16 and 17 year olds, and then only those who opt to take up the NCS (a 30 hour residential social action project) would be eligible for this mental health training. 

Mental health issues disproportionately affect young people, with over half of mental health problems starting by age 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 18. Which means that this programme would come too late for most young people with mental health problems.

No information has been given in this announcement as to who the mental health organisations developing this training are, what it will involve, or the level of mental health training of the 10,000 staff (most of whom are temporary, seasonal workers).

While offering young people the chance to increase their knowledge around mental health is a good thing; this programme also raises issues of where they then go to if they need follow up mental health support. CAHMS services are already overstretched and young people have to present with ever more serious levels of poor mental health to be seen. 

Chair of BACP, Andrew Reeves said: “This programme would come too late for many young people, while leaving others with little or no after support.

 “BACP has long campaigned for school-based counselling as it can provide an early intervention to stop conditions accelerating into something more serious and complex. It is quicker and easier for children to access, usually in just two to three weeks, and can work as a parallel support alongside CAMHS.

 “School-based counselling uses experienced staff who have chosen to train in mental health as their career (rather than teachers, or other staff working with young people given mental health training).” 

Note to editors: 

School-based counselling has already had much success across Wales; where they legislated, back in 2007, to ensure statutory provision of school-based counselling to all Y6 pupils and all 11–18 years olds; but is still patchy across England, with no commitment to a similar programme being made.  

Young people from ethnic minorities and from low incomes are under represented on the NCS programme and only 12% of those who were eligible for NCS took part in 2016, with 45% of young people not even aware of NCS.