More mental health support for young people in Plymouth schools


A new three year package of specialist mental health support for young people is now available in the majority of Plymouth secondary and special schools, after young people said it was needed.

The package which includes, counselling, learning and training opportunities, Theraplay and specialist mental health workers who will be based at schools, was introduced after teachers said they felt like the demand for mental health support was increasing and young people said they felt they needed someone to be able to talk to.

To try and fill this gap the City Council started a joint piece of work with Plymouth schools to look at the options available.

Councillor Terri Beer, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “We know that our young people face many stresses and strains in their lives so it’s vitally important that we have in place a network of support they can access at school. By working with our schools we were able to help them purchase the best possible support package for students.”

To make sure the right services were put in place schools, Council officers and mental health professionals worked together and the Schools Forum jointly agreed to fund the £1.2 million project that includes on-line and face to face counselling, awareness training for staff, play therapy for special schools and for the first time a dedicated CAMHS worker who will work closely with each school to offer support.

Back row: Liz Dunstan (Principal Tor Bridge High), Jodie Frost (The Zone), Sarah Goddard (CAMHS), Shelley Shaw (PCC Commissioning), Aaron Sefi (Xenzone) Second from back row: Nicki Hall (Young Devon), Anita Hemsi (Head teacher DHSG) Second row: Daniel Michaels, Jenny Way (PCC Youth Worker), KC Wood, Tyler Evans, Front row: Melissa Sigsworth, Cllr Beer, Michelle Clancy.

Back row: Liz Dunstan (Principal Tor Bridge High), Jodie Frost (The Zone), Sarah Goddard (CAMHS), Shelley Shaw (PCC Commissioning), Aaron Sefi (Xenzone) Second from back row: Nicki Hall (Young Devon), Anita Hemsi (Head teacher DHSG) Second row: Daniel Michaels, Jenny Way (PCC Youth Worker), KC Wood, Tyler Evans, Front row: Melissa Sigsworth, Cllr Beer, Michelle Clancy.

20 year old Abbie and 15 year old Dan said: “We really enjoyed being involved with the mental health project. It was eye opening to get an understanding of the current position on mental health services available for young people in schools. A highlight of the project was being on the young person’s panel who interviewed the potential new service providers.”

Anita Hemsi, Chair of Plymouth Learning Trust Inclusion and Head Teacher of Devonport High for Girls said: “Plymouth schools have always supported students and recognised their need for early Emotional Health and Wellbeing Support and are keen to work with other agencies to provide a joined up city wide approach.

“Through Schools Forum working with Plymouth City Council and NEW Devon CCG, we have funded a systems approach to provide services and embed a positive culture of wellbeing across school communities. The aim is for our students to feel able to talk about their mental health, access early support, utilise advice from specialists based in schools and feel they are supported by the whole community.”

The Zone will offer specialist training to the whole school community including; staff, pupils, governors, parents and carers that focuses on raising awareness and tackling stigma of mental health.

Rachel Cruise, Operations Director for the Zone said: “The Zone is really looking forward to giving young people the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to help themselves and their friends should they experience periods of poor mental health. We are also looking forward to working closely with school staff to support their role in intervening early to promote the well-being of pupils and to avoid any unnecessary distress.”

Xenzone in partnership with Young Devon will be offering confidential, anonymous and free on-line and face to face Counselling. Users can chat to counsellors up to 10pm, 365 days a year as well as access a wealth of self-help and peer-to-peer support.

Aaron Sefi, Business Development Director at Xenzone, said: “One in 10 children and young people across the UK are reported to experience mental health issues and many are too scared to access help.  That’s why it’s vital to provide support that speaks their language and gives them a feeling of being in control.’’

Special schools have all had staff trained in Theraplay which means they can work creatively with students to understand their needs and provide the right type of emotional support to them.

The additional CAMHS support in schools provided by Livewell Southwest will see each school having their own named mental health lead, who will be delivering support from each school site.

Michelle Thomas, Director of Operations said “This is a really exciting development. Having CAMHS staff located within the school setting means Children and Young People can access support and interventions directly, rather than having to go through a lengthy referral process. There will be a big shift towards building resilience, developing positive coping strategies and life skills, preventing mental health and reducing the stigma attached to having a mental health issue. The CAMHS staff will work closely with the counselling service and the Zone to ensure there is an emotional health and wellbeing service that meets the needs of the whole school community, as well as parents, families and the staff working with the young people.”

If you would like more information about the services available, please talk to your school.