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Former Thurston Community College student highlights mental health support she received as recruitment begins to new teams working across schools in West Suffolk

After struggling with her mental health in the last few years of school, Bethan Rees knows the importance of pupils being able to access professional support.

She has highlighted the vital help she received as recruitment begins to three new mental health support teams, which will work across schools in East and West Suffolk as well as North East Essex.

The former Thurston Community College student, 18, says she experienced more stress around the start of Year 11 as she grappled with school work, a fear of exams and failure as well as bullying.

Bethan Rees (19553215)
Bethan Rees (19553215)

At a low ebb, Bethan, who is autistic, was constantly breaking down and having to leave the classroom.

She was thrown a lifeline in the guise of Dr Beth Mosley, the school’s recently appointed clinical psychologist.

“She worked with my parents and I to help us understand what was happening and why I was feeling this way, and helped liaise with other teachers to support me,” Bethan remembers.

Dr Beth Mosley (19553229)
Dr Beth Mosley (19553229)

“I was then able to get through the rest of the academic year, and passed all of my GCSEs really strongly.”

Dr Mosley continued to offer support, especially with her autism ambassador work within school.

Bethan needed her help again in Year 13 after her application to go overseas with a gap year organisation was rejected because they felt they couldn’t support her.

“This absolutely broke me,” she said. “My confidence dropped, and my mum emailed Dr Mosley to help.

“The next day, she spotted me and spoke to me about it, letting me cry while she spoke about how it must feel. She totally understood.

“During this period of time, I had a lot of lows, and whenever I felt like I needed to see her I just simply sent her an email and we organised something.

“I’ve come a long way after these lows and I’m so grateful for Dr Mosley’s support.”

The pair are now working together on Bethan’s campaign, Discuss Disability, which is part of Scope’s Scope For Change programme, to encourage schools to educate students about disability.

She has welcomed the move to train more psychologists to work in schools.

“Students and staff are under so much pressure under the current education system and it shows,” she said.

“So many more young people are developing mental health conditions. Autistic people like me are also more likely to develop a mental health condition.

“Having this support in schools will undoubtedly help so many students from so many different backgrounds.

“This is incredibly important and I hope it works out.”

The three new mental health support teams will support more than 24,000 students in about 64 schools - 27 across West Suffolk, 23 in East Suffolk and 14 in Tendring and Colchester.

Due to be in place by January 2020, they will include senior clinicians, higher level therapists and education mental health practitioners offering support on issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

The practitioners will receive training on a new course by the University of East Anglia.

In Suffolk, 16 new team members will be employed by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) including eight trainee education mental health practitioners.

It follows an announcement earlier this year of an extra £2 million national funding for the integrated care system across Suffolk and North East Essex.

Dr Mosley, lead clinical psychologist with NSFT, has pioneered a whole-school approach to mental health in the last four years and worked with a team of five at four schools in West Suffolk, in a project funded by the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, to support 4,300 students and 400 staff members.

She said: “This is an amazing opportunity to work alongside education to support young people and their families with their mental health.

“The expansion of this work allows us to work more closely with primary and secondary schools.

“Investing in supporting children, especially the most vulnerable,
their teachers and parents in these early years is critical to preparing young people for the challenges of life.

“Promoting positive mental health and giving young people opportunities to learn about how they can stay mentally healthy, as well as knowing what to do if they are worried about themselves or a friend, is something schools are working hard on.

“Being able to further support them with this, as well as provide evidence-based interventions for children in schools when there are concerns will support young people and their families getting the right help at the right time.”