Primary mental health workers are professionals from a variety of backgrounds who are trained and experienced in working within the community to promote positive mental health and wellbeing for children and young people.
They support schools to identify and address emotional and mental health difficulties. They help to raise awareness and importance of emotional health and wellbeing amongst young people and those who are most vulnerable. They can also offer consultation, liaison, advice, joint working, and both direct and indirect intervention (if appropriate) at an early stage.
Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria is the name of the partnership of local NHS, councils, voluntary sector and community organisations working to improve health and social care services and help the 1.7 million people in Lancashire and South Cumbria live longer, healthier lives.
This includes working together with children, young people and their families to shape the future of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Amongst the various specialist CAMHS professionals, there are currently 17 primary mental health workers in Lancashire and South Cumbria, with two more being recruited soon, including one specialising in colleges.
David Eaton is the Director and Chair of The Association of Primary Mental Health Work and Training and Service Manager of Blackpool CAMHS at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He said: “Ahead of World Mental Health Day, Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System demonstrate their commitment to supporting young people with their mental health.
“Primary mental health workers are a professional, highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce from a range of backgrounds. Their unique role supports the school staff, as well as working with health and social care workers.”
“I am delighted that Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System has recognised the valuable role of primary mental health workers and ensured that they have a place in the new mental health services. I am really proud of how the teams are building relationships and connecting with local communities to help people navigate the system.”
The government has committed to fund more than 3,000 places on the youth mental health first aid (MHFA) course over three years, so that by 2020 at least one person in every state secondary school in England has mental first aid skills.
By the end of this year, all of the primary mental health workers in Lancashire and South Cumbria will be trained to deliver the youth mental first aid course. Across Lancashire, 49 secondary schools have already completed the course, and Cumbria County Council has trained 46 members of school staff.
Julie Scantlebury, Family Learning Mentor at Manor Beach Primary School said:
“Since taking the youth mental health first aid training, our staff feel better equipped with the knowledge and confidence required to address emotional and mental health difficulties successfully. The training has helped us to understand and recognise early signs of poor mental health which in turn will prevent issues escalating.”
“The primary mental health workers have promoted the awareness and importance of emotional health and wellbeing in the school – not just with pupils, but staff too. The sessions have been very useful and are certainly something that we’d like to continue in the future.”
Chelsey Savage, Safeguarding Officer and Mental Health First Aider at Boundary Primary school in Blackpool added:
“I have built up a good working relationship with our primary mental health worker which has enabled our school to improve our approach to mental health and wellbeing.”
“We use a preventative approach, with a focus on educating both parents and children in a variety of ways. Our new parents’ coffee morning ‘mind your head’ has proven to be a supportive yet informative resource for parents and allowed us to build our relationships with local services. We have incorporated key stage 2 children as wellbeing champions to provide peer-on-peer support, and we offer a range of interventions from counselling to the ‘pesky gnats’ programme which is supported by our pastoral team.”
“The youth mental health first aid training has given me the ability to provide early intervention for children struggling with mental health difficulties, as well as supporting colleagues to provide this support as well. Our school has seen a huge transformation over the last 12 months in our approach to mental health and wellbeing – supported by our primary mental health worker.”
To find out more about how Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System is transforming mental health and emotional wellbeing services for children and young people, visit www.healthyyoungmindslsc.co.uk/camhs-redesign.