SCHOOL referrals to mental health treatment have more than doubled over the last year in the county.

NSPCC figures show that 352 referrals were made for troubled pupils by schools to NHS services in Worcester in 2017/18, compared to 170 in 2016/17 and 77 in 2015/16.

The increase is drastically more than the national average, with a third more referrals being made nationwide this year.

The NSPCC says increased demand for support is jeopardising the well-being of thousands of children.

Nearly a third of referrals from schools to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) over the last three years nationally were declined treatment as they did not meet the criteria for support.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said: “Our research shows schools are increasingly referring children for specialist mental health treatment, often when the child is at crisis point.

“Childline plays a vital role in supporting children with their mental health, and many turn to us when they are struggling to get access to specialist treatment. Early counselling from Childline could also help relieve the pressure on CAMHS.

“We have seen a marked increase in counselling about mental health, and fully expect it to continue. It is vital that Government urgently provides more funding to Childline and help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline said: “Young people are telling us they are overwhelmed with mental health issues, such depression and anxiety, which is taking many of them to the brink of suicide.

“Our counsellors are literally saving lives, and it concerns us that we cannot help every child who desperately needs us."

Last week the NSPCC and four of their campaigners handed in a petition of 22,411 signatures to Downing Street to call for increased funding to Childline as part of their Are You There? campaign.

A Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust spokesman said there was room for improvement but it was making progress in services available for children.

“Schools being able to refer to CAMHS is a fairly recent introduction, previously this would have only been possible via a GP and we have worked closely with our local schools during that time to make them aware that they can refer to the service.

"We have a service called CAST (Consultation, Advice, Support and Training) linked to MHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

"They work directly with professionals who are working with young people experiencing or at risk of experiencing mental health difficulties.

“Working with commissioners, we have developed a number of new teams and services to support children and young people’s emotional and wellbeing needs over the last 12 months, including a bespoke eating disorders service for 8 -17-and-a-half year olds.

“There is always room for improvement but we think these developments, alongside already established services, represent progress in terms of what is now available to support children and young people across Worcestershire.

“When referred to CAMHS every child and young person is assessed to understand their condition and to ensure they get the support which is right for them. If they don’t require CAMHS then they will be supported to access a more appropriate alternative. For example a young person may be referred to CAMHS following a bereavement when it may be more suitable for them to access a specialist bereavement charity.”

 Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills – Councillor Marcus Hart said: "Worcestershire County Council and Clinical Commissioning Groups are committed to continually raising awareness about Mental Health, and for all the county's residents to feel comfortable in accessing any Mental Health support they need.

"The total number of children and young people referred to the CAHMS Service has remained stable in Worcestershire over the last 4 years, but the proportion of these referrals received from schools has increased. 
"This is to be welcomed as the school is often the agency which knows the most about a child or young person's current needs and presentation and is therefore well placed to make an appropriate referral, rather than asking the family's GP to do so.

"The Emotional Wellbeing Toolkit, developed by the County Council,  offers local guidance and a clear referral pathway for schools and colleges, ensuring that clear help and support is readily available. 

"One third of the county's schools have also already accessed our newly-created CAMHS CAST team. 
 "This provides each school and college in the county a named contact for school staff to consult with, making the process of discussing mental health and emotional wellbeing issues easier, and allowing many children the first step in addressing any mental health issues they have".