Mental health support teams (MHSTs) have been officially launched in selected schools in two South Yorkshire towns as part of a nationally-funded pilot scheme.

Co-designed and co-produced with children and young people from the very start, the service, ‘With me in Mind’, aims to reduce waiting lists for mental health support and improve the overall wellbeing of pupils experiencing various mental health issues.

Across Doncaster and Rotherham, the pilot is supporting a cohort of approximately 32,000 children and young people in around 50 schools and colleges.

Last year the NHS united with schools and colleges in 25 areas across England to provide expert mental health support for up to half a million pupils a year to help transform children and young people’s mental health through the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Lee Golze, Acting Assistant Director, Children and Young People Services, Doncaster Council and NHS Doncaster CCG said: “I am delighted that Doncaster and Rotherham have been chosen to be a trailblazer site, and really excited that we are now ready to launch the services.

“We know that mental health and well-being is a priority for our children and young people and these new teams will help to accelerate the support we already have in place. Doncaster is committed to providing the best support we can to our children and young people in becoming the most child friendly borough in the country.”

Dr Jason Page, Local GP and GP lead for Children and Young People at NHS Rotherham CCG, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside colleagues in Doncaster as one of the school mental health trailblazer sites, and are really excited about the work our mental health support teams are doing with young people in our selected schools.

“Mental health and well-being is not only a key priority for health services, but also for our children and young people and these new teams will help to expand the support we already have in place. Partners across Rotherham are committed to providing the best support we can to our children and young people and will continue to work with schools, students and their families to improve support, advice and guidance in our communities.”

When initially scoping the pilot, local health and care professionals were keen to create a service which appealed to children and young people and raised awareness of mental health wellbeing.

Commissioning teams from Doncaster and Rotherham worked with schools and the Young Advisors panel to create a brand design, book and film which would be part of the new service in addition to offering up new ideas of how to better engage with young people in schools. The final look and feel of the service as well as the engagement channels chosen to communicate with pupils have all been selected by young people.

The Doncaster Young Advisors panel said: “Being a Young Advisor and having this opportunity to be part of the co-production and service delivery of ‘With Me in Mind’ has been both an eye opening and remarkable experience.

“Working on a topic that is so close to the hearts of hundreds of young people including the Young Advisors, and being able to make a difference is so special. We as a team are so proud of the work and the powerful resources we have developed.

“We look forward to seeing the service develop and are so excited to get our film and book as far and wide as possible, in the hope it will help and encourage many young people to talk about their mental health.”

The new MHSTs build on support already in place within schools such as school counsellors, nurses and educational psychologists to treat pupils with mild to moderate mental health issues and will crucially help children and young people with more complex needs to access the right support and provide a link to specialist NHS services.

Christina Harrison, Director of Children’s Services at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH), who will be providing the service in both Rotherham and Doncaster, said: “Early help and support is always the best way to deal with any health condition, including mental health.   This new service means we have teams in schools made up of mental health professionals, ensuring mental health conditions or concerns are picked up really early allowing essential support to be available.”

The pilot has already supported several pupils in the run up to the official launch with some schools trialling MHST’s before Christmas.

A young person from a Doncaster Trailblazer school said: “The sessions have been brilliant, they helped me a lot with my anger, and self-harm. It was great having someone in school to talk to and think about my thoughts, behaviours and actions.”

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