During 2019 NHS funding was awarded to introduce two Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) based within Schools to education settings across Blackburn with Darwen. Since then an additional six MHSTs have been introduced across Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire (Pennine). The teams are provided by East Lancashire Child and Adolescent Service (ELCAS) and provide direct access to mental health care for children and young people within the schools they are working in.

Currently across Pennine Lancashire the eight MHSTs support primary, high, and special schools in Blackburn with Darwen, primary schools in Burnley and Pendle, high schools, and special schools in Hyndburn, Rossendale and Ribblesdale and Hyndburn and Rossendale and Nelson and Colne colleges. A further team will join in 2023 to work in high schools across Burnley and Pendle, with further proposals to cover all schools across the area by 2025.

Each team consists of:

  • Educational Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs) x 4
  • Mental Health Practitioners (MHPs) x 2
  • Senior Mental Health Practitioners (SMHPs) x 1
  • There is also one clinical lead for Blackburn with Darwen and one for East Lancashire

The MHSTs provide direct, ongoing mental health and wellbeing support that includes:

  • Evidence based interventions, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), creative problem solving for children and young people with mild to moderate mental health conditions including anxiety, depression/low mood, sleep problems, panic attacks, specific phobias and behavioural and emotional regulation
  • The teams also provide guidance around coping with issues such as exam stress and bullying, concerns related to historical self-harm and injury – learning to cope/new strategies, concerns related to current non-life threatening self-harm/injury – basic harm reduction, assessing risk and management advice. Children who require more specialist interventions will be directed to the child psychology service or have direct access to the ELCAS core team
  • Emotional difficulties that are secondary to autistic spectrum disorder or ADHD or learning difficulties
  • A consultation request for support process that ensures children and young people receive the right support to meet their needs
  • One to one and group sessions, assemblies and whole class support
  • Education, advice and training to staff within schools, with support for the mental health lead within each school or college
  • Working with schools to implement their whole school approach developing a positive ethos and culture for pupils and families, promoting good mental health and wellbeing across the school
  • Advice to school and college staff and liaising with external specialist services to help children and young people to get the right support and remain in education
  • Parent led sessions as groups or 1:1s
  • Parent education sessions e.g., the internet and the impact on mental health

The teams work with children, young people and families from a variety of backgrounds and aim to provide a culturally sensitive service.

When should a Child or Young Person access the MHST?

The team’s ambition is to provide an early, evidence based intervention when young people experience a mental health problem. Any concerns regarding a child or young person needs to be raised with the senior mental health practitioner who covers the young person’s school. When the request for support is accepted an initial assessment is arranged either via the Attend Anywhere digital platform, or, if available, in a safe and confidential area within the school. Parents are often contacted to assist with the assessment. To support primary school children our teams will look at the best way to meet a young child's needs, for example: children's group sessions or parent sessions.

Most therapy appointments take place in the young person’s school although if a room is not available or this is not appropriate, other local venues can be agreed. The team can also offer appointments remotely on the remote platformm, Attend Anywhere, authorised by the NHS.

We use questionnaires and other rating scales to help with our assessments, to understand the young person’s difficulties and to see whether we have been able to make a difference.

The team liaises closely with Child Psychology Services, and the input of this service can also be considered at the point of request for support. If the child’s need is such that they require a more specialist intervention or would benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach (e.g. with ELCAS) this too will be discussed with the referrer.

Who can request support from the MHST?

Most requests for support come from the young person's school. School requests for support often come from the school's Designated Mental Health Lead (DMHL) or pastoral lead. Other school staff can request support but this would ordinarily have been agreed first with their respective DMHL or pastoral lead. The request for support process works best if a discussion is held with the MHST about the young person first with the teams' senior practitioners.