Bid to help cut Doncaster mental health waiting lists for youngsters by getting support workers into schools

Officials are hoping a new scheme to place mental health support workers at the heart of Doncaster’s schools will transform the well-being of youngsters.

By David Kessen
Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 10:07 am

At present, experts say around 100 referals a month are made to CAMHS – Doncaster Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. But with a new scheme being rolled out across dozens of borough schools, health officials hope they will now be able to act early to sort out problems before they grow into bigger, more severe issues.

The new government funded project, called With Me In Mind, follows a pilot scheme and aims to reduce waiting lists for CAMHS. It has been designed with help from school pupils, some of which struggled with mental health issues at school.

The Fress Press is currently running a campaign called #Just Talk, which aims to encourage people, particularly men, to talk more openly about their mental health, to try to improvement wellbeing.

Pictured are Sineade Hazel, 20, front, with l-r, back, Thomas Frith, 18, Alex Winter, 17, Emily West, 17, and Marianne Zamgoni, 18, young advisors for the With Me in Mind mental heath scheme, at the launch at Sir Thomas Wharton Academy, Edlington.

With Me In Mind was launched at Sir Thomas Wharton College, Edlington, where a pilot scheme has run.

Lee Golze, acting assistant director of children and young pople’s services for Doncaster Council and NHS Doncaster, said: “We find there are only a small number of children with a diagnosable problem. But we have children with issues of emotional wellbeing, anxiety, stress, attachment. They don’t need specialist CAMHS services, they need support in the moment, support from people they’ve got a relationship with. We’re finding these are people who don’t necessarily meet the CAMHS threshold. This is plugging a gap.”

The scheme is expected to help reduce the number of children going into acute care for mental health, as well as helping pupils to attend school who may otherwise may not be able to.

“This is a service that we’ve all been wanting for the last three or four years,” he said.

Pictured are health workers Joy Worthington, Carmel Mumby, Balvinder Kaur, Natalie Bagnall, Rebecca Jackson, Richard Bryan, Joshua Richards and Savita Chahal, at the launch of the With Me In Mind mental health service at Sir Thomas Wharton Academy, Edlington.

Richard Bryan, the clinical lead in charge of the scheme in Doncaster, has a background in dealing with severe mental illness as a social worker and interpersonal pychotherapist. In the past his work involved dealing with young people who have tried to cause themselves serious harm.

“I’ve seen the far end when early intervention has not occured, where people have been very unwell,” he said.

“The pilot (for With Me in Mind) has had eight educational mental health practitioners. Cases tend to be lots of anxiety and some phobias, people with low moods and symptoms of depression, and young people with general anxiety. Sometimes it is linked to issues at home.

“We have worked with children on resilience, and done work about anxiety, as well as work with parents about how their behaviour is impacting on the child, but not in a forceful way. We have had a lot of success particularly with anxiety, where people have been able to go back to school. Sometimes it has been about bullying.”

Pictured l-r are Sineade Hazel, 20, Thomas Frith, 18, Alex Winter, 17, Emily West, 17, and Marianne Zamgoni, 18, young advisors for the With Me in Mind mental heath scheme, at the launch at Sir Thomas Wharton Academy, Edlington.

The service also works with teachers, to help them pick up on any signs that their pupils may have problems.

A team of young advisors was put together to help create the scheme, from Doncaster’s local schools.

They put together plans for a video which will be shown in secondary schools and at local cinemas, and a children’s story book, called Super Sam, which addresses anxiety in a way children would understand and will be used in local primary schools.

Advisor Emily West, aged 17, said she grew up struggling with anxiety issues, and she felt the project had been an issue that was close to her heart.

“That is why I wanted to be involved – I want this to be really successful. As a young person you want to feel that there is someone you can turn to.

“I used to get panic attacks when I went out in public, and it affected my attendance at school because I struggled to get out. I got help from CAMHS. I’m on the road to recovery and working on this scheme has helped me.”

She added: “I’m really proud of the book. I think it will make a real difference.”

Sineade Hazel, aged 20, was also part of the panel, and dressed as the Super Sam character from the book the group created at the launch.

She said she had also had mental health issues at school.

“I really wish something like this was there when I was struggling,” she said. “I think I would have been a lot better off now. I think it helps that you see that you are not the only one that is struggling.”

Sir Thomas Wharton College headteacher Rachel Nash, said the trailblazer scheme has added an extra layer of support for children, with assembly support, and corridor drop-ins. Conversations had been started.

“You cannot underestimate the impact this will have on children and young people in a community like ours. I’m really excited about where this is going to go,” she said.