The number of pupils found to be suffering from mental health problems in schools has shot up by over a third in the last three years, the NSPCC reveals today.
And Childline founder and president Dame Esther Rantzen says some are being driven to the brink of suicide.
In the north of England, schools made more than 35,000 referrals in this time, rising from 7,352 in 2014/5 to 10,051 in the year ending March 31 this year.
Nationally schools have made over 120,000 referrals for mental health treatment since 2014.
In nearly a third of referrals children were declined specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) treatment so community and voluntary services such as Childline are a lifeline to these youngsters.
Dame Esther said: “Young people are telling us they are overwhelmed with mental health issues such depression and anxiety which is taking many of them to the brink of suicide.
“Our counsellors are literally saving lives, and it concerns us that we cannot help every child who desperately needs us.
“We must make sure that Childline is adequately funded so it isn’t left vulnerable and can be there for the children who have nowhere else to turn.”
In a Freedom of Information request to NHS Trusts in England the charity found schools seeking professional help for pupils from CAMHS made 123,713 referrals since 2014/15.
Worryingly most referrals (56%) in England came from primary schools. This could be a result of a lack of funding and services to support children in those settings.
Overall the number of referrals to CAMHS from schools has steadily increased each year since 2014/15, reaching 34,757 in 2017/18 – the equivalent of 183 every school day. In the north of England, 10,051 referrals were made in the last year – the equivalent of 53 every school day.
The charity is warning that increased demand for support across specialist CAMHS, schools and the voluntary sector is placing the system under real pressure, jeopardising the well-being of thousands of children.
This has shone a light on the urgent need for a broader range of support for children’s mental health needs.
The NSPCC is now calling on the Government with their Are You There? campaign to invest some of this funding into early support services for children. The NSPCC’s Childline service has seen a 26% increase in the number of counselling sessions with children about mental health issues over the past four years.
The news follows a damning Select Committees report from last week, which found that the Government’s £300m plans to improve mental health provision for children “lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of children who desperately need it.”
Nearly a third (31%) of referrals from schools to CAMHS, for Trusts who were able to provide the information, over the last three years were declined treatment as they did not meet the criteria for support.
Some young people have told Childline that they only received specialist support when they reached crisis point.
Due to the rise in mental health counselling sessions the charity delivers, they are calling on Government to increase the amount of funding it gives to Childline, to ensure it can reach even more children who are struggling.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “We have seen a marked increase in counselling about mental health, and fully expect it to continue. It is vital that Government urgently provides more funding to Childline and help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere.”
Last year, a Government Green Paper promised a shake-up of children’s mental health support with an injection of £300m.