Read how a Suffolk school is leading the way in pupil mental health
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 July 2018
THURSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
A Suffolk school is being held up as a shining example after greatly improving the mental health of pupils by employing its own clinical psychologist.
Thurston Community College is one of the first schools in the country to invest in a full-time psychologist.
Dr Beth Mosley was appointed 18 months ago after the school approached Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to ask how mental health support could best be offered to its 1,750 students.
Since her introduction 81% of students who had identified difficulties with anxiety or depression have seen their symptoms improve.
Now leaders are looking at rolling out the scheme to other schools across the county and beyond.
Dr Mosley, who is employed by NSFT but funded by the school, has been offering face-to-face therapy sessions for students with identified metal health problems.
For those who cannot safely be supported within the college, Dr Mosley has been referring them into other NSFT services.
She has also been reviewing the school’s mental health education and working with staff to help them identify and best support children who are struggling.
“School is often the hub of a child’s life,” Dr Mosley said. “We therefore have a golden opportunity to support young people to develop resilience and emotional literacy, as well as identify difficulties early on. If all schools were equipped to invest in this approach, imagine the impact.”
Nationally there has been a rise in schoolchildren experiencing mental health difficulties.
Dr Mosley said this could be due to a range of issues facing young people including exam pressures, cyber-bullying, self-esteem and worries about finding a job.
Thurston Community College caters for secondary and sixth form pupils.
Principal Helen Wilson said: “We want to encourage our students to feel comfortable about opening up and believe very strongly that this culture of openness helps with their educational success, as well as offering young people a much greater chance of leading a fulfilled life as a successful adult.”
Staff have also reported less stress at work and Miss Wilson said the school was planning on doing more work on helping employees cope with pressures.
• Family testimonial
A 16-year-old pupil said she would not have be able to finish her studies if it wasn’t for this scheme.
Caitlin was already receiving help from Dr Mosley when the pressure of GCSEs hit and she developed the early signs of an eating disorder.
Dr Mosley was quickly able to recognise the signs and made an immediate referral for specialist support from NSFT.
Caitlin has now completed her GCSEs and in September will attend West Suffolk College to study business.
Her mother, Natasha Mealey, said: “Beth was a huge help to Caitlin and myself, especially being able to do the counselling at Thurston, which made it so much easier to get to, and helped to keep Caitlin in school.
“Without Dr Mosley, we would not have known how to ask for further help, and now we are working with the local mental health teams and the GP to get Caitlin all the support she needs to continue to recover and stay well.
“Caitlin has said in her own words if it was not for Beth she would not have finished school or completed her GCSEs. So this help has been so important in really helping her have a much more positive future.
“We could not have got through at least the last 12 months without Dr Mosely and she is such a valuable member of the Thurston team.”
Talks are under way about how this scheme could benefit other schools.
There is currently a major review taking place to reshape mental health services in Suffolk.
Dr Ed Garrett, chief operating officer at Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups, said this project at Thurston had been identified as best practice and something that could be rolled out to other schools in the county as part of the review.
Meanwhile, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill set up a young persons mental health working group in June and it is exploring the potential of expanding this scheme.
She said: “Going forward, I hope these findings provide a foundation to deliver greater support for students and schools across Suffolk.”
Working group members have met with the minister for mental health and inequalities, Jackie Doyle Price, to discuss Suffolk leading the way nationally.