Ministers warned over cuts as teachers claim 'crisis point' in child mental health
Teachers have taken aim at school funding cuts as they claimed mental health problems among children were reaching a "crisis point".
An overwhelming 83% of teachers, school leaders and support staff said the problem had increased over the past two years, according to a survey from the National Education Union.
They said their own workload, as well as limited access to support services and an "exam factory" culture, were stopping kids getting the help they need.
One respondent said the underfunding of schools' and external mental health services was a "slow-motion car crash" for young people.
Over 80% of staff working in primary and secondary schools acknowledged there had been an incease in children with mental health problems in the past two years, while 90% of college staff reported the rise.
Another teacher who took part in the survey, said: "Sats pressure and general expectations are taking their toll on more vulnerable pupils. We have 9-year-olds talking about suicide."
The survey of over 8,600 school staff found fewer than 30% of schools had a nurse, while only 12% had a trained mental health first aider.
"I spend most lunchtimes and 40% of my time nurturing children experiencing a range of mental health issues," said one respondent.
"I am currently working with 15 children who have been bereaved, have anxiety, have PTSD or a parent with a terminal/life threatening illness."
Meanwhile, another unnamed respondent told the NEU the mental health first aider scheme, backed by the Government, was "lip service" compared with full mental health professionals.
They added: "Seven members of staff trained - nothing we didn't already know and it does not make us mental health practioners! Massive myth."
'TERRIBLE AND DESTRUCTIVE'
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said teachers had offered "alarming reports of a growing crisis in our schools and society".
He added: "It is very clear that this Government's policies on education and school funding are contributing to a terrible and destructive situation for young people and the education workforce.
"Schools can't solve this alone and Government's underfunding of public services is damaging the next generation from an early age."
A spokesperson for the Department of Education, said: “Mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated as such.
“That is why the Education Secretary has made children's mental health a key priority for this government; and through our new compulsory health education all children will be taught how to look after their mental wellbeing and recognise when classmates are struggling.
“We are investing more in mental health support - with an additional £2.3bn a year being spent by 2023 -24. This means that by 2023/24 an extra 345,000 children and young people up the age of 25 will benefit from a range of services, including new support teams that will provide additional trained staff to work directly with schools and colleges.”