John Healey MP says there should be a counsellor in every school to help meet the increasing mental health needs of pupils.

The Shadow Housing Secretary was speaking on Question Time during a debate about social media and mental health.

His comments were today welcomed by Jo Holmes, BACP’s children, young people and families lead, who said: “We know counselling can change lives and that school-based counselling can have a transformative impact on children and their families’ lives.

“We should be shaping provision around vulnerable children’s needs enabling them to access treatment that will make a difference.

“John Healey joins the Children’s Commissioner and a growing number of organisations in echoing BACP’s long-term campaign for a counsellor in every school, and we want to work together to help this call become a reality.

“There are growing and complex issues which are affecting young people’s mental health. It is important there are trained counselling professionals in schools to address mental health concerns, so teachers and other school staff can focus on education.”

The Question Time discussion followed comments by Ian Russell, the father of Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017. Ian feels the content she accessed online was partly responsible for her death.

John, the Labour member for Wentworth and Dearne, told the programme: “I have done a survey recently of the schools in our constituency and it is quite shocking.

“Over the last five years every single one of the schools has seen an increase in mental health problems, primary and secondary. Every single one of them has tried to refer pupils on.

“We have to get to a stage where we have a counsellor in every school. Offer primary schools access to a counsellor.

“For many of these children, the teacher may be the one reliable regular adult in their life.

“We have to do much more to get much better, quicker referral for the specialist services that just aren’t good enough at the moment.”

Counselling access

An audience member told the panel about his friend who had taken their life and about another friend who had attempted to.

He said: “When one person kills themselves it is tragic but when we get 84 men killing themselves a week that’s a national tragedy.

“It really needs to be looked at beyond the realms of what is displayed on social media. When you conflate suicide with what people are seeing online you are not really tackling the multi facets of the issue."

He added: “I also worry when we have these discussions about regulating the internet, how would you possibly regulate something as massive as social media?

“It seems to me a massive misnomer when you are dealing with mental health issues, you are not really talking about it at all.

“(Molly Russell’s) death may have been influenced by what she was seeing online but there will be so many other failures that could have been stopped before this.

“She clearly wasn’t getting adequate help that she needed. This is something we need to work on in this country because we are losing so many people. Something needs to be done by the Government.”

Sticking plaster

Iain Anderson, executive chair of Cicero Group, ambassador for Stonewall and trustee of GiveOUT, said: “For LGBT people this is a huge issue.

He added: “The cost to the economy is huge in economic terms, but the cost in social terms is even greater.

“People are getting sticking plaster mental health services. They are not getting what they need.

“All the NHS is able to do is put some sticking plaster on an emergency situation and, as we have heard this week, tragically, that is far too late.

“Prevention is better than cure and we need to get our politics to fund our mental health services more.”

Suella Braverman, the Conservative MP for Fareham, said the Government was putting mental health on parity with physical health.

She said: “The funding is increasing. We have seen record levels of money going into our mental health services.

“We want to provide counselling services and psychiatric services for those more serious cases so that people don’t get to these tragic circumstances where they don’t have anyone to talk to.

“There are services out there. It’s about accessing them and, yes, Government can always do more.”

If you want to speak to a BACP counsellor, visit our Find a Therapist Directory.