Teacher set to run London marathon to help raise funds for school counselling charity as demand for teenage mental health help increases

A teacher at a secondary school in Leeds is running the London Marathon to help raise funds for specialist mental health services based in schools.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:45 am

Waiting times for students to see a counsellor or to access specialist services were already becoming increasingly long before the pandemic, but an increase in demand for services for teenagers struggling to cope with the effects of lockdown has only exacerbated the issue.

It has led to many schools entering into contracts where they take on outside mental health services to try and help young people before mental health problems spiral out of control.

For example, Allerton High School has been working with the charity Place2Be since the last academic year. It was founded in 1994 and works with 600 schools across the UK where it places a dedicated mental health professional to work from an office in the school so there is someone on hand all the time to help with young people who are struggling with issues which range from exam stress, to social media pressures and problems at home and in their personal life.

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Allerton High teacher Laura Bebbington at the dedicated counselling office in Allerton High School.

Estimates by Place2Be reveal that it costs £4.2m per year to fund one-to-one counselling and that equates to a spend of £923 per child who receives counselling, and, there are only ten places available at Allerton High for young people to engage with services at any time, with waiting lists being drawn up after that.

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She said: "We were finding that waiting lists for mental health services for young people were becoming longer and Place2Be offers instant access to counselling for students and we are not putting them on a waiting list.

"Because of the pandemic the use of the service has increased, a lot of students have struggled during lockdown. If they have a problem, usually when we get to them it is crisis point. They have let problems build up and things have happened."

Ms Bebbington added that schools are often a focal point for young people seeking help as they don't have someone at home who is able or willing to help. The range of issues she has come across at school include things that have happened at home to students, social media pressures, an increase in males coming forward for help and increased incidents of gangs bullying young people into getting involved with activities they don't want to.

She added: "One of the main things that Place2Be offers, and what made me want to help, is that if students can learn to deal with their mental health as young people, it means they are mentally healthier as adults. The sooner they can access help, the sooner they have the tools to deal with their own mental health rather than having to access services for the rest of their lives.

"Ten students can access this straight away, some go on a waiting list. I wanted to raise money so it might have an impact on the amount of students that can access that."

One in six children and young people now have a diagnosable mental health issue. That’s five children in every classroom with a condition like depression or anxiety.