In the course of our work with children and young people we often come into contact with children and young people who are emotionally distressed for whatever reason. With early intervention many of these emotional issues may be resolved before they escalate to a level where more serious intervention is required. Research within one local authority highlighted that staff who work with these children and young people regularly and may even interact with these young people every week or everyday, are often reticent to get involved with emotional concerns, for fear that they may make matters worse and tended to hold a view that specialist staff were needed to deal with what they perceived as mental health issues.
In addition research with staff from education, health and social care highlighted that the three different sectors use different terminology to refer to similar things and as such communication between services may not always be smooth, which may lead to misunderstandings about the level of need or difficulty. At the time the government agenda was very much in favour of emotional health and well being and good mental health being…
‘Possibilities are infinite.’
In order to meet local needs as well as acknowledging the government agenda of promoting good mental health and reducing stigma and discrimination around such issues a training package was devised on the basis of the research and in conjunction with colleagues from health and education to address the early signs and indicators of poor mental health and emotional well being in children and young people. The training package aimed to support staff in reassuring them much of the work they do is about promoting emotional well being and good mental health , even though they may not necessarily recognise it as such. The training also encouraged staff to employ many of the skills they already possessed (such as good listening skills) to help support these young people, as well as knowing when and how to signpost to other services when a greater level of help was needed.
This training programme was regularly evaluated to ensure that the training continued to meet the needs of staff as well as the children and young people that they support.
In addition another strand of training emerged from this initial research which was regularly delivered to social care staff and to foster carers around understanding child development and what is typical of the various ages and stages of development, again with a view to noticing when to hold and when to signpost to other services.