Never too young to start discussing mental health

Charlotte Lowe talks to pupils at Lostock Hall Academy
Charlotte Lowe talks to pupils at Lostock Hall Academy
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A Preston school is leading the way by taking mental health issues into the classroom.

Lostock Hall Academy, near Preston, has its own counsellor/therapist who works with staff and pupils to raise awareness of the subject as well as working with pupils or groups who may need help.

Charlotte Lowe, now has been working with children and young people for 15 years and firmly believes that school is about more than just academics. Although most, if not all, schools work hard to cater for the “wellbeing” of their young charges, mental health is not yet on the curriculum.

But, it is not for the want of trying and the Lostock Hall teacher and her counterparts have scored a small victory which could change that.

A couple of years ago she set up a petition which argued for a need for the discussion of mental health to be made compulsory to the school curriculum.

In line with this, a group of psychologists based at the Shaw Mind Foundation in Nottingham set up an almost identical petition so they worked together and earlier this month reached its target.

The school played a huge part in helping collect more than 100,000 signatures on a petition to get the issue raised in parliament.

Charlotte explains : “I am passionate about mental health and believe it to be essential for young people to understand whilst growing up.”

When Charlotte started work it was initially supporting children with learning disabilities at Barnardo’s.

Since then she has worked in a large number of settings with CYP, including on numerous psychiatric wards and Wigan youth offending team.

She’s also been employed as an assistant psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and has worked as a counsellor/therapist in school for eight years.

With both a BSc and MSc in psychology she has recently qualified as a cognitive behavioural therapist.

Charlotte says that “ There is so much to be gained from children and young people learning about good mental health during their school years.”

Thanks to the support from the Todd Lane North school, Charlotte says she’s seen how just having a counsellor on board has helped students in many ways and says more needs to be done to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health.

She even used some of the case studies to help present her case to the Government.

Charlotte explained: “I have a number of students I work with in school who have written down how much they have benefitted from understanding about mental health by a mental health worker being employed in school.”

Charlotte says: “ My role in school involves me working individually with students, or alternatively running specific therapeutic groups.

“As well as these targeted interventions I aim to promote good mental health around school, through assemblies, PHSE lessons etc.

“I try to educate staff about mental health and how to recognise any problems with students. I am also the link worker with outside agencies such as CAMHS and CSC and provide a single point of contact.

“So we have a whole school approach as well as providing individual support to those who need it.”

She adds: “ Good mental health needs to be promoted from a young age and early intervention, prevention and developing resilience in young people is vital.”

Recent research has dem onstrated that 75 per cent of all mental health difficulties originate during adolescence, including 50 per cent by the age of 15.

This is why, says Charlotte, mental health professionals should be employed to help already “overstretched” teachers identify and help youngsters in need.

“The Government has finally recognised the lack of parity between mental and physical health and have set out a plan to try to improve services.

“This is long overdue but I am pleased it is now being given the recognition it deserves.”