Schools-based mental health support teams in Rotherham and Doncaster are responding to the pandemic’s ever-changing educational environment by providing a fast point of contact for worried youngsters and their parents.
This year’s Children’s Mental Health Week (1-7 February 2021) marks the first anniversary launch of the With me in Mind (WMIM) service, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of pupils with mild to moderate mental health problems at selected schools and colleges in the two boroughs.
With schools being physically closed for long periods of time since the pandemic started, the teams from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) have transitioned from face-to-face to virtual contact to ensure local young people can continue to get the support they need.
Michelle Heaversedge, clinical lead for the WMIM team in Rotherham, said: “Within a few weeks of starting out we had to completely revise our plans and move to a new way of working with pupils and parents. So instead of working in schools at will, as initially envisaged, we have adopted a ‘blended’ approach. In appropriate circumstances, where it has been safe and necessary to do so, we have had face-to-face meetings with pupils, but most contact has been virtual and is working very well.
“The majority of referrals are for a range of anxiety issues, such as general worries, family concerns or getting behind with school work. We are also dealing with the impact of Covid deaths on families. It’s good that technology is enabling us to keep in touch with those who need our advice and help, and if needed we can refer young people on to more specialist care.
“Staff now organise one-to-one appointments by WhatsApp, or telephone, depending on the young person – or their parents’ – choice. Some youngsters don’t always want to be seen when they are discussing their concerns so a phone call suits them.
“We also continue to develop our online resources, including producing a number “of videos for our young audience, covering such topics as the importance of sleep, low mood and stress. They can be viewed on the WMIM website.”
A local element of a national initiative, the With me in Mind service is initially supporting some 32,000 children and young people studying at over 50 educational centres in Rotherham and Doncaster, from primary and special needs schools to colleges. Mental Health Support Teams build on what’s already in place, such as counsellors, nurses and educational psychologists, to help solve problems early, before they potentially develop into more complex issues.
Richard Bryan, who leads the WMIM clinical team in Doncaster, said: “Covid has aggravated conditions that many young people were potentially able to manage before the pandemic. We are seeing the impact of isolation and of young people not having an outlet for releasing their frustrations, such as through team sports. More referrals are coming for obsessional behaviour, like, for example, continually switching lights on and off.
”Our staff support young people and families to develop strategies to manage anxiety, with referrals coming direct from schools. The key benefit of our service is that we have short waiting times and by intervening early we can help young people to get better quickly and hopefully avoid a relapse.”
- For more information visit the With me in Mind website for Rotherham and Doncaster: www.withmeinmind.co.uk