Experts say more must to be done in schools nationwide, to help pupils with their mental health as some children are waiting up to 13 weeks to start treatment.

Today is annual World Mental Health Day, which aims to raise awareness and increase support for those suffering.

Dr Emma Ashworth, psychology lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and researcher in child mental health school prevention interventions, says struggling NHS services mean it’s now more common for the responsibility of looking after children’s mental health to fall to schools.

She said: “While they are doing their best, I think more could be put in place at a national level to ensure that fewer young people fall through the cracks.

“This could be through the provision of more school counsellors, or universal prevention interventions to teach children more about mental health, coping skills, and where to access support.

“I think early intervention is key – it’s much easier to prevent mental health difficulties from developing in the first place, rather than trying to manage established difficulties.”

NHS data revealed children are waiting nine weeks to receive their first appointment with CAMHS (the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and 13 weeks to start treatment.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

The age children are presenting mental health problems is reportedly getting younger.

Dr Hana Patel, GP and mental health coach from South London, said: “Children as young as five years old present with symptoms of extreme worry and anxiety, and may have generalised anxiety disorder, causing them to be tearful, not wanting to go out or behave differently.”

Dr Ashworth said children should be able to access support as soon as they need it.

She said: “This would prevent mental health difficulties from escalating further, and young people then reaching the point of crisis.

“The earlier we talk about mental health, the better. Integrating it into the curriculum every year through a staged approach can empower children with knowledge about what mental health is and where and how to access help for mental health difficulties.”

NHS England data revealed a quarter of 11-16 year-olds, and nearly half of 17-19 year-olds (46.8%), with a mental disorder reported they have self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

A current petition by ‘3 dads walking’ is calling for suicide prevention to be to taught to school children of all ages.

The dads, whose daughters all took their own lives are trying to fundraise £1million for Papyrus – a charity which supports the prevention of young suicide.

The Government currently offers guidance for schools on how to support children with their mental health.

Dr Patel said: “Mental health and mindfulness is being discussed more in schools and nurseries.

“I think by speaking about it from an earlier age, this is something children and young adults are aware of and that is part of their wellbeing.”

The World Health Organisation’s focus for this year’s awareness day is making mental health and wellbeing a global priority for all. You can find out more about the day here.

If you’re a young person struggling with your mental health, support is available from Childline, YoungMinds and Papyrus.

The Samaritans helpline is also open 24/7 on 116 123.