There has been a 10-fold increase in the number of young people being referred by Northamptonshire schools for mental health treatment in the past four years, with more than half of referrals made concerning primary school children.
The county’s schools have referred 1,782 pupils to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) since 2014, with 904 of those referrals concerning pupils aged 11 and under.
However, almost half (46 per cent) of young people referred have been deemed not eligible for treatment.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, which runs the CAMHS service for the county, said the higher number of referrals were as a result of making the system simpler.
They said: “As a trust, we have developed our referral processes to make it easy and simple for schools and other professionals to refer to our specialist children’s services.
“In addition to this, NHFT also process referrals for other organisations including youth counselling services who provide support in the county as part of our referral management centre.
“These arrangements have been well received by schools and therefore, as a result of this, we are seeing a high level of referrals from schools.
“Eligibility criteria for CAMHS are for young people with mental health difficulties whose symptoms and or impairment are significant, complex and persistent.
“For those individuals that do not meet this criteria for CAMHS, but still require some support, we work together with Northamptonshire counselling agencies to signpost and arrange for the most appropriate support for them.”
The number of primary school pupil referrals has been slammed by Labour county councillor Danielle Stone as ‘absolutely horrifying.’
The former teacher and education officer said: “This is an issue that as a county councillor I have been raising for many years.
“Our young people are under far too much pressure and have a very narrow curriculum which has had much of the joy taken out of learning.
“Class sizes are going up.
“So children are getting less support and the number of learning assistants that provided the pastoral support are being reduced due to school cuts.”
She said the county’s CAMHS service did deliver a good service but that waiting lists were too long and by the time children were seen many were at ‘crisis point.’
In 2014/15, Northamptonshire CAMHS received 69 referrals from schools.
This figure increased by 285 per cent in 2015/16 when 266 young people were referred.
Referrals rose to 658 in 2016/17 and increased to 789 in 2017/18.
In 2017/18 there were 325 referrals made from county schools for young people in the 12-15 age bracket.
In 2016/17 the figure was 236.
The NSPCC says the statistics have highlighted the urgent need for a broader range of support services for mental health needs and is now calling on central government to invest more funding into early support services for children.
The charity’s Childline service has seen a 26 per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions for children about mental health issues over the past four years.
County schools can also access the Northamptonshire Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) programme, a multi-agency partnership which helps schools and teachers with training about mental health issues.
In October the CAMHS and the Northamptonshire Educational Psychology Service will host a Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing conference in Kettering which will look at a range of issues affecting pupils such as loneliness at primary school, anxiety, self harm, bereavement and supporting children who are questioning their gender.