Young London SOS: Schools are on edge of mental health crisis, warns charity

·2-min read
Inspiring story: Jonny Benjamin, far right, the founder of mental health charity Beyond, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, right, Neil Laybourn, who talked Mr Benjamin out of taking his own life in 2008 (AFP via Getty Images)
Inspiring story: Jonny Benjamin, far right, the founder of mental health charity Beyond, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, right, Neil Laybourn, who talked Mr Benjamin out of taking his own life in 2008 (AFP via Getty Images)

Charity workers have created a mental health directory for teachers needing immediate help for their pupils, as they warned schools are on the precipice of a mental health crisis.

The charity Beyond launched its register of mental health and well-being practitioners to help teachers cope with the rising number of children asking them for help, but who were faced with long waiting lists for NHS services.

Beyond was founded by Jonny Benjamin, who became a prominent spokesman on mental health after he ran a campaign to find the man who talked him out of jumping off Waterloo Bridge in 2008 when he was suicidal. It aims to reduce mental health stigma, improve access to mental health provision and fundraise for education and support.

It comes as the Evening Standard’s Young London SOS campaign is highlighting the mental health crisis among young people and raising money for more Place2Be counsellors to go into schools. Louisa Rose, CEO of Beyond, said the new directory has been created in response to the pandemic: “One of the biggest problems for teachers is they haven’t got the time to sift through pages and pages of Google trying to find a mindfulness teacher for a primary school child whilst trying to find a child psychologist for a secondary age pupil.”

She added: “We were already on the precipice of a major mental health disaster before the pandemic and the pandemic itself has exacerbated that.

“Referrals to CAMHs (child and adolescent mental health services) are the highest they have ever been… We know CAMHS can’t cope with the amount, but there is not a joined-up approach connecting schools with local external experts who can easily be brought in right now.”

She said schools were reporting a rise in eating disorders and self-harm among pupils, and uncertainty about exams and school closures had contributed to a spike in anxiety levels.

Beyond is fundraising to help schools bring in mental health experts with grants up to £4,000. The recent Out of the Dark cycle ride from Reading to Waterloo Bridge raised almost £6,000.

Anyone seeking help for feelings of distress can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org

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