Young people at schools across Oxfordshire have someone there for them if they are feeling stressed or worried, according to Oxford Health.

Although COVID-19 is at the front of everyone’s minds at the moment the importance of the physical and emotional health of young people has always been top priority for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s school health nurses.

And, with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the team is reinforcing the message that they are there for young people.

Tikki Harrold, a school health nurse from Oxford Health NHS Primary Trust, said: “We always say to pupils that there’s nothing so bad that they can’t talk to us about it – and that’s as true now as it has ever been.

“With COVID-19 and lockdown alongside the usual range of challenges that young people face, now can be a tough time for some. If anyone is feeling that their emotional health is suffering, we can help.”

The school nurses work in partnership with other agencies to offer support to school-aged children, young people and their families on many issues and they returned to the county’s schools at the same time as pupils.

Each Oxfordshire school has an allocated school nurse who are part of the school community with each having, on average, 30-hours of provision. Pupils can be referred to the nurse by their parent or guardian, by social services or they can self-refer.

Although schools were closed for a time, the school health nurse service was still ticking over and keeping in contact with any pupils who needed us by phone, video or in person through socially distanced walk and talks.

Between April and August this year the school health nurses had contact with over 6,000 pupils with most of these receiving some form of emotional health help.

Tikki explained: “Now that schools are fully open we are able to provide a more conventional service which, for pupils who feel more comfortable with coming to see us in person in school, is really good.

“Over the summer the nurses also produced a video to help young people with some of the worries that they may have had and reassuring them that school nurses were there for them.

“The video was promoted on social media and received a good response with pupils making contact with their own nurses as a result. I’d urge any young person experiencing difficulties to approach their school nurse and, if they have never done it before and are worried, to take a look at the video and see that we really are a friendly bunch!”

For more information on the role of the school health nurse or details of how to contact them, please visit https://www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/school-health-nurses/

If you are a young person who would like to self-refer, please visit your school website for details of how to contact your own school health nurse.

Oxford Health also has Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs), co-delivered with Response Charity and Oxfordshire County Council, with four MHSTs supporting 12 secondary schools and 67 primaries (around 32,000 children.)

You can read more about their work here – https://www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/news/supporting-mental-health-in-schools/

To find out if your child is in an MHST supported school, and to access the service, you can use a referral form on the Oxford Health website here: https://secureforms.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/mhst/