A MENTAL health support system for Glasgow’s young people has already helped save one life.

And now a roll out of the Togetherall scheme will include everyone in the city aged up to 24 as part of a focus on making Glasgow a nurturing city.

Barry Syme, City Principal Psychologist, said work in schools in crucial to give pupils supports to help prevent problems escalating.

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Last year Glasgow became the first education department to invest in Togetherall, an online platform giving mental health support to 16 to 18-year-olds.

READ MORE: Mental Health Awareness Week: Headspace at Hillwood tackling suicide in Glasgow

The success of the system has now pushed the council to extend the support on offer to 24 year olds and purchase 70,000 licences for the site. Togetherall operates as a message board but it’s monitored 24/7 by a clinical supervisor so any posts that raise concerns are immediately flagged.

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Barry said: “In terms of suicide prevention, our supports in schools aim to put a safety net around young people.

“Togetherall is a very interesting example because there was one incident where a young person has posted on the wall that they had a suicide plan and fortunately the clinical supervision on Togetherall picked this up and intervened.

“They tracked back the registration of the young person and, in doing some work through child protection and Police Scotland, managed to find the young person.

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“That goes to show you that having something as simple as an online platform has saved one life.”

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Togetherall can be prescribed to young people by their GP or by a third sector organisation – around 20 groups have signed up to be social prescribers as part of a wider network working with the council.

The latest data from Togetherall shows that, in Glasgow, 67% of people who logged in were female while just 17% were male.

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Barry says that increasing engagement with mental health support is an issue schools are looking at.

He added: “Boys tend not to show their emotions and that’s something we need to be looking at more in schools.

“Boys tend to bottle it up until it becomes crisis point. It’s maybe a west of Scotland thing that men still don’t show their emotions. There is a lot of work out there being done but it can be challenging.”

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Barry lists a wide range of initiatives in use across the city – from an Australia programme called Living Works, that education headquarters staff were trained at, to an initiative in St Andrew’s Secondary where pupils made a short film about mental health and suicide prevention.

At Rosshall Academy pupils are taking the lead in supporting one another to have good mental health.

It has been a vital programme of work in the school over the past few years with the South Side secondary introducing a raft of initiatives to help staff and pupils.

“We started to raise the profile of mental health in the school because we wanted to create a system of early intervention, having our young people be more aware of their own mental health and more proactive in seeking support,” depute head teacher Wendy Stillie said.

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Around 30 staff are certified in Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid and teachers also receive training in restorative justice and in ACES – being aware of adverse childhood experiences that might affect a pupil’s behaviour.

But a focus is also on pupils to provide peer to peer support with a network of Mental Health Ambassadors in S4 to S6.

They learn about how to support other pupils, how to care for their own wellbeing and, crucially, when to escalate an issue to staff.

Young people are proactive in work around good mental health – from delivering assemblies to ­raising funds for SAMH.

The school has a successful ­buddy system where a younger pupil who is struggling is paired up with a Mental Health Ambassador from the upper school.

Buddies will meet on a weekly basis and Wendy says the scheme has really helped with resilience and improving attendance for the younger pupils involved.

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Rosshall Academy used its PEF funding – pupil equity fund – to bring in additional counselling in the school, which Wendy says is well used. There is now a counsellor in school five days a week, offering 15 sessions across the week.

Wendy said: “Having pupils involved at that level has really helped, and we have the message in the school that it’s ok not to be ok.

“Young people feel comfortable in saying that they are struggling and there’s been a lot of development over the past few years in getting to this point.”

Staff wellbeing has also been a focus with evening yoga classes provided for teachers online during the pandemic, along with staff wellbeing classes and an ethos of allowing staff to feel free to talk about their mental health.

Across the city, schools are working to make positive mental health a priority for pupils - and early intervention is crucial.

Most recent waiting times for CAMHS, the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service, in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area show 52% of young people waiting more than 18 weeks for an appointment.

Before the pandemic, schools had been tasked with completed a mental health policy for every secondary, which will be revisited now.

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Barry said: “Early intervention really is important. If you look at CAMHS, that level of support is for severe mental health issues and that’s what they do well. But they get a lot of referrals as people aren’t clear where they should go for help or what they should do.”

One of the major new supports in schools is a partnership with Action For Children to run over the next four years, which will see thousands of counselling sessions offered in Glasgow schools.

Schools can choose from individual or group sessions with a pilot programme showing that groups sessions encouraged young people to get involved.

Barry added: “I think a lot of young people before the pandemic were incredibly anxious, and to some extent that is a normal part of growing up, but anxiety is expected to increase after the pandemic.

“That wouldn’t require a referral to CAMHS but if you’ve got the group work in schools, that’s ideal for that.”

King’s Park Secondary School has also focused on post-pandemic recovery as part of supporting pupils with their mental health.

Like Rosshall, the high school has staff trained in mental health awareness as well as a dedicated health and wellbeing room, among a range of supports.

Head teacher Kirsty Ayed said: “We are already seeing that for some of our young people there’s an increased need for them to talk and offload and share some of what they are feeling about the past year, and for some of our families as well.

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“It has been a really challenging time with all of the uncertainty and that has left some of our young people and families feeling so much more anxious.”

To help young people process what they have gone through, pupils in S1 to S3 have been asked to paint a stone depicting their covid experience and these will be cemented in place as a permanent artwork in the school.

Kirsty added: “We know how important mental health is in schools and we want to have an environment where everyone is able to speak about mental health and seek support. That’s always been important but especially so now.”