Schoolchildren showing the beginnings of anxiety, depression or self-harm will offered specialist help within school as part of a pilot scheme to be launched in Wales.
The £1.4 million will go towards a two-year trail by the Welsh government across north east and south east Wales and Ceredigion, with NHS staff available to provide a better standard of support.
In September, the National Education Union called for the Welsh government to integrate wellbeing officers into schools after it was revealed that in the 12 months to October 2016, 19,000 referrals were made to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across Wales – an increase of 3,000 on 2015.
In August this year, Samaritans Cymru suggested that lessons in emotional and mental health be mandatory for all secondary schools in Wales and has subsequently launched a pilot scheme in Cardiff.
Social media has been blamed for the rise in mental health problems among school-age children, while many attribute their anxieties to feeling the pressure to do well in exams.
A UK benchmarking of specialist CAMHS last year stated that one in three of all referrals were inappropriate, and Carol Philips, Student Support and Child Protection Officer at a secondary school in Powys, believes there are many reasons why schoolchildren experience mental health issues.
“We also see people who present to us with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, [and] self-harm to name a few”, she said.
“In school as well there are exam pressures and [pressures] with the current changes in the framework of assessments for young people.”
Divisional Director of Family and Therapy Services at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Dr Dave Williams, feels that the number of children needing help was concerning.
“He said: “There are lots of people who have mental health problems, not all of whom have mental illness. CAMHS has come under a lot of pressure to be able to be the solution to some of these problems.
“But if we don’t do anything to turn the tap off, we’ll run out of resource. It’s a whole system approach which is required.”
Welsh government Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, said: “One in four people in Wales will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives.
“Getting the right treatment at an early stage, coupled with greater awareness of conditions, can in many cases prevent long term adverse impacts.
“This will ensure children, teachers and others charged with caring for children in our schools, receive support to promote good emotional and mental health.”