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What is the role of a Designated Mental Health Lead?

The release of the government’s ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health’ Green Paper in December 2017 laid out several proposals which would affect the support around children and young people with their mental health in both schools and the NHS.

A key takeaway from the paper was the declaration by the government to ensure every school and college has a Designated Safeguarding Lead in Mental Health in place by 2025 – which is what we’re going to focus on within this article.

Designated Mental Health Lead: A more proactive approach needed

First and foremost, when assessing the need for a Designated Mental Health Lead within schools and colleges, it was clear there was a concern around how mental health was very much a ‘reactive’ topic. A key remit of the Designated Mental Health Lead is to make tackling mental health more proactive.

Training, Expertise & Oversight

This ties in with staff knowledge and expertise too, with an emphasis placed on equipping relevant employees with the tools and understanding of the topic, so that they can fully support children who are facing mental health issues. The coordination of this will ultimately lie with the Designated Mental Health Lead as they deliver an aligned approach to mental health across the school or college.

Furthermore, the above extends to the leading of the provision for young people’s mental health needs including oversight of interventions where these are being carried out by staff members.

In developing this, it is required that the Designated Mental Health Lead oversees mental health interventions which take place – an example of this could relate to the supervision of a CAHMS (Child and adolescent mental health services) mediation.

Upon referral of a child to specialist services or the NHS, it’s vital that the occupant of position establishes ongoing and secure working links with the above services, so that the process can be actioned in a smooth and systematic manner.

Recruitment for the post is preferred internally rather externally, therefore placing an added level of pressure on the employer in question to deliver high quality training. This should be accredited to an academic or clinical institution, while also having a clear evidence base. This training is however conditional to objective review and thorough quality cross-check processes.

Positive Impact

Ultimately, it falls on the shoulders of the person in the role to be the figure head for the school or college’s mental health initiatives and programmes. They should also assess what can be implemented and/or reinforced further in order to make a positive impact on pupils’ mental health.

When analysing the specifications and objectives of this role, it is clear that the immediate benefactors, should necessary checkpoints be attained, will be the children and young people who directly liaise with the Designated Mental Health Lead.

Drilling down further though, there is the in-direct impact which the appointment will have amongst staff members at the school or college in question.

The ability to have expert-led guidance and advice readily available can only be a positive and will allow for an enterprising approach to the subject of mental health from staff – something which relates back to one of the original key intentions for the position.