The revelation that the number of children contacting Childline because they are experiencing suicidal thoughts has more than doubled in the past five years is extremely concerning.
It’s equally worrying, but sadly not surprising, to hear many of these callers are dealing with these problems on their own, with Childline also reporting an 87% increase in young people struggling to access professional help.
With children spending a significant amount of their time in a school setting, school nurses are ideally placed to provide this help, and the importance of having a readily available health professional to talk to in confidence and ask for support and advice shouldn’t be underestimated.
Unfortunately, the most recent workforce statistics show there are just 2,606 school nurses left in the NHS, 13% fewer than in 2010, caring for more than 9 million pupils. Repeated cuts by the Government have led to school nursing services being understaffed and under resourced, with pupils suffering as a result.
At RCN Congress this year, members voted unanimously in favour of lobbying all UK governments to invest in services to promote the emotional well-being and positive mental health of children and young people.
This investment is vital. School nurses have the training and expertise to provide a wide range of mental health support, from counselling to promoting healthy lifestyles, but there are too few of them and they are too stretched. These roles should not be under threat when they're needed most.