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Cash-strapped local authorities are being forced to divert funding from early mental health intervention to services under more immediate pressure, council chiefs warn.

The Local Government Association (LGA) issued the warning in response to a new survey which found an increase in mental health problems among secondary school children.

Commissioned by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), the survey found that 82% of high school teachers saw increased levels of anxiety/depressive symptoms among students over the past year.

Conducted by Teacher Tapp, the survey also found that 70% of teachers saw a decline in student motivation and engagement and 66% saw a worsening of existing mental health issues.

Donna Molloy, Director of Policy at EIF, commented: “We know that supporting young people’s mental health is a priority for secondary schools. Now more than ever, it is essential that teachers are properly trained to help young people develop essential life skills, which includes the skills needed to maintain good mental health and well-being.

“Youth mental health must remain a national priority, and training teachers and dedicating time in the curriculum to focus on well-being are important ways to reduce youth mental health problems.”

Responding to the survey, Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Deputy Chair of the LGA Children and Young People’s Council, said: ‘The councils have worked closely with schools and other partners to provide support to children and young people, but have had to increasingly divert spending from early intervention to more acute services due to overstretched budgets and growing demand.

Cllr Nethsingha urged the government to ensure that local mental health services are fully funded over the long term.

She said: ‘With the annual cost of mental health problems in England estimated at £119billion, the government should use its 10-year mental health strategy to ensure local mental health services have funding. enough to meet current, unmet and new demand for mental health support, including preventative mental wellbeing work that can stop the escalation of mental health needs to avoid more costly NHS treatment .

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