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Improve working and collaboration with mental health services

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On this page you can find information about:

  • mapping and understanding your local services 

  • the role of mental health support teams and education mental health practitioners

  • the legacy of the government-funded Link Programme. 


By improving joint working and collaboration with mental health services, children and young people are more likely to get the support they need when they need it. Joining up education and mental health services is at the heart of developing a seamless service for children and young people, Proposals were set out in the Green Paper in 2017-18 ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ where the government committed to bringing together education and mental health services to ensure long-term collaboration. 

Mapping your local services 

The mental health services available to schools and colleges vary significantly depending on the local area.  However, mapping and understanding your local services is very important to ensure that pupils have access to the right support. On our Mentally Healthy Schools website, we have lots of information about how to find your local services – from utilising a directory of services from your local authority, to finding online counselling and helplines. 

Mental health support teams 

As part of the government’s commitment to improving mental health services for children and young people, they have commissioned mental health support teams (MHSTs) who work directly in schools and colleges. Your school or college may already have access to a mental health support team, or it may still be in the process of being set up in your area. As of spring 2022, 287 MHSTs are now operational, covering over 4,700 schools and colleges. The government estimates that there will be 500 teams up and running by 2024. MHSTs have three main functions: 

  • delivering evidence-based mental health interventions 


  • supporting the senior mental health lead on a whole school or college approach to mental health


  • giving advice to school and college staff and liaising with external specialist services.


Mental health support teams are made up of a range of different health professionals, including a new role - educational mental health practitioners (EMHPs).  EMHPs are trained to deliver evidence-based mental health interventions in schools and colleges, supporting those with mild to moderate mental health needs. This includes:  

  • providing low intensity, direct support for young people and the parents of younger children who present with low mood, anxiety or challenging behaviour


  • working at a whole - school level to provide evidence -based interventions and information for students and teachers 


  • supporting parents and carers through psychoeducation workshops on key topics like transitions. 


A MHST’s approach to working with its local education settings will be area-dependent, and will be developed in partnership with stakeholders including the local authority, NHS England, and local education partners. 

The Link Programme was a national initiative to support children's mental health, which ran from 2015 to 2022. Delivered by the Anna Freud Centre, the Link Programme was supported by NHS England and strategic leaders from local authorities, education departments, and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Led by local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups, with education colleagues playing an essential part, the aim of the programme was to bring together local leaders in education and mental health to share challenges and best practice.  The resulting discussions and workshops enabled local areas to identify and develop pathways to timely and appropriate support for children and young people. 


Independent evaluations of the Link Programme showed evidence of: 

  • strengthened communication and joint working between schools and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS)


  • improved awareness and knowledge of risk factors and mental health issues relating to children and young people


  • improved understanding of mental health services, referral routes and procedures, and in some cases has resulted in the development of new referral procedures


  • enabled action planning and catalysed wider change


  • provided a better understanding of evidence-based practice.



  • Mental health services for schools in England

    Find out more about understanding and mapping your local service landscape, in order to plan and improve children’s access to support.