Youngsters are to get direct help with their mental health from full-time practitioners at two primary schools in Dagenham and Romford by a children’s charity.

A full-time mental health practitioner is being assigned by the Place2Be charity to work at Marsh Green and Rush Green primary schools.

It is part of a programme to help children as young as five, as well as their teachers and families, with one-to-one counselling where it’s needed and group and drop-in sessions.

“We have an increasing number of children who require this level of support,” Marsh Green headteacher Natalie Sanchez revealed. “Offering mental health support to pupils, parents and staff is going to be invaluable.

“We are hoping our pupils develop positive lifelong skills and behaviours in the future.”

A surge in the number of cases in the years following the pandemic has been reported by the charity with “children as young as five self-harming and having suicidal thoughts”.

The programme, funded by the City Bridge Foundation, aims to “transform children’s life prospects” following the isolation of lockdown during the Covid era.

Health practitioners will be working two days a week each at Marsh Green and Rush Green, part of a programme with nine schools in other areas of London, to develop children’s resilience and self-confidence.

The charity’s London regional director, Eric Haines, said: “We’re trying to shift the stigma around mental health.

“We work not just with the children but their parents and teachers as well, to create a culture where youngsters feel able to talk openly about their health.

“We are dealing with serious mental health issues and giving them support they don’t get anywhere else.”

The charity’s ‘whole school approach’ to early intervention has been changing children’s lives for almost 30 years.

City Bridge Foundation chairman Giles Shilson said: “All the evidence shows that addressing mental health problems in childhood is the best way of nipping them in the bud.”

The foundation is also funding the charity’s research into the long-term impact of one-to-one counselling in schools and to see how it can also be provided for children up and down the country in the future.