The largest ever mental health and wellbeing programme in UK secondary schools is being launched today in a bid to halt worrying trends in teenage suicide rates, which have increased by 45% over the past decade1.
The new £5m scheme from Govox Wellbeing – backed by the government and education secretary – is aimed at saving and improving the lives of young people and will enable secondary schools to monitor the wellbeing of pupils and offer support.
It is time to remove the stigma around talking about how we feel and move on from the ‘man up’ generation – Richard Lucas, founder, Govox Wellbeing
Pupils involved complete simple ‘check ins’ where they answer a set of short questions that analyse their overall mental health, providing a ‘wellbeing score’ and flagging any concerning findings, in particular highlighting any ‘high risk’ pupils.
The £5m programme is being funded and run by Govox, which is offering the platform – developed with collaborators including King’s College London and NHSx – completely free of charge.
… research from the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that one in 14 children has tried to end their life by the age of 17
Richard Lucas, founder of Govox Wellbeing, commented: “Today marks a very important day for the wellbeing of pupils in our schools across the country. We truly want to make mental health support available to as many pupils in the UK as possible. Tight budgets should not stop them getting the help that, both the data and the personal experience of so many shows, is urgently needed. It is time to remove the stigma around talking about how we feel and move on from the ‘man up’ generation.”
The initiative, which is set to give support to up to one million pupils in its first year, is backed by education secretary Nadhim Zahawi MP, who told us that the government is putting an extra £2.3 billion into mental health services in the next year.
The programme has also been welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said he is “very pleased to hear about the work Govox is doing to support mental health and wellbeing”, when it was recently discussed during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The programme is being delivered with the support of suicide prevention charity Papyrus, the Mental Health Foundation and Local Mind, ensuring students are signposted to effective support.
Sharn Tomlinson, CEO for Local Mind, commented: “There is a mental health crisis with children and young people, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is vital that new innovative approaches are taken in schools and colleges. We warmly welcome the secondary schools programme from Govox which will see tangible, practical support being offered to around a quarter of all secondary schools in the country, and we look forward to working with them as this is further rolled out in the coming years.”
Early warning system
In addition to the worrying increase in official suicide figures in the past decade, research from the British Journal of Psychiatry2 suggests that one in 14 children (seven per cent) have tried to end their life by the age of 17. The Govox Wellbeing Schools programme is focused on directly addressing this, by creating an early warning system for at-risk children and increasing the chances of successful intervention.
The platform is not only aimed at saving lives but improving them, by monitoring and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of all pupils using the platform. According to Young Minds, one in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in 2021, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017.
The platform is not only aimed at saving lives but improving them
The programme will allow schools to assess pupils’ overall mental wellbeing, ability to cope with their work and exams, and any other pressures or issues they may be facing. It provides ongoing monitoring to make struggling pupils visible to schools, offers personal wellbeing reports on each pupil, and signposts to relevant organisations if external support is required.
The programme is already proven to be effective and is used by over 40,000 users in 10 countries and multiple languages, some of whom are paying users. However, Govox has taken the step to make the platform available completely free of charge to 1,000 secondary state schools across the UK who may not otherwise be able to afford it due to stretched budgets. The move is set to ‘democratise’ mental wellbeing in schools to ensure that all pupils have access to it.
The company has committed to offering the platform for free on an ongoing basis to the schools that sign up, and is planning to increase the proportion of the 4,000-plus UK state secondary schools that have access to the programme in future.
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Developed in conjunction with NHSx, Kings College London, neuro psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr Sam Norton and independent medical expert Dr Thomas Danhausser, Govox Wellbeing was founded in 2018 by former British Gas engineer Richard Lucas, following the sad loss of young lads at his local rugby club to suicide.
Schools are being urged to sign up to the programme throughout May and early June in order for the platform to be installed ahead of the summer holidays, in time for the new academic year. The 1,000 school places will be offered on a first-come-first served basis, but any schools who do not sign up in time are able to register their interest for the planned future expansion of the programme.
1 According to ONS data 110 teens aged 15-19 committed suicide in 2010 compared to 160 in 2020 which equates to a 45% increase. Further demonstrating the increase over the decade, the average suicide rate for this age group between 2020-2015 was 177 compared to 133 between 2010-2014.
2 British Journal of Psychiatry 2021, based on analysis of The Millennium Cohort Study: https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Mental-ill-health-at-age-17-%E2%80%93-CLS-briefing-paper-%E2%80%93-website.pdf