Our Children, Young People and Families Lead says early intervention is crucial in suicide prevention and has reiterated our call for counselling to be available in all schools.
Jo Holmes was speaking after a discussion on suicide prevention and mental health on the BBC’s flagship political programme Question Time.
She says having access to a school-based counsellor has a positive effect on young people’s well-being and mental health.
“Early intervention, having trained professionals who young people can talk to, can have a transformative impact on the lives of children and their families,” said Jo, who is a former school counsellor.
“It is vital that young people can have someone they trust and who is easily accessible before things escalate and get to the point where they think about taking their own life.
“In the same way that you would have a first-aider, a SENCo and a safe-guarding lead, a counsellor should be part of the fabric of every school."
BACP back the Children’s Commissioner’s Manifesto recommendation that all schools should have access to a school-based counsellor.
Our call is supported by almost three-quarters of the UK population. Our public perception survey, conducted by YouGov, found that 72% of people believe counselling should be available to all children throughout all schools.
Jo said: “Specialist services are overloaded with young people who don’t meet mental health thresholds.
“School counselling can play a crucial role in relieving this pressure, working with young people who struggle with suicidal thoughts being part of what counsellors do, but it is a postcode lottery, some schools employ counsellors that are embedded in the schools, others are less fortunate.”
The mental health topic was raised during Question Time by Christopher Hart, who talked about the loss of his daughter to suicide a year ago.
He said: “In order to save lives and stop this from happening, the first thing is to raise the awareness and be brave enough to take it head on.”
He added: “It’s letting people know it’s okay to talk.”
Lord Falconer, the Labour peer, said: “The demands made, and the greater sense of failure make the pressures on young people when they are adolescent absolutely appalling.
“You can’t imagine, and you are often not told what they are going through, so it is not surprising that they need support, which they can’t get at the moment.”
Conservative MP Victoria Atkins, Home Office Minister and Minister for Women, said: “We now have a minister appointed for suicide prevention precisely because we are so worried about the impact, particularly on young people, that mental health is having.
“We know there are certain societal issues that are placing so much of the burden on our young people that we didn’t have when we were growing up, in terms of the pressures of social media.
“I think we have to find a way of grappling with that factor as well as many other factors.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and want to speak to a BACP counsellor, visit our Find a Therapist Directory.