An inquiry into the role of education in preventing mental health problems will be held by an influential group of MPs, it has been announced.

The education select committee and health select committee will hold a joint inquiry focusing on the capacity of schools, colleges and other educational settings in prevention and early intervention, including how teachers and other professionals can be trained to recognise the signs of mental illness and support pupils when problems occur.

The committee will also examine the extent to which social media and the internet, through instances of cyber building and peer pressure, are contributing to an increase in mental health issues among young people.

Earlier this year, a survey of school leaders by the National Children's Bureau and the Association of School College Lecturers found that more than half (55 per cent) had seen a large increase in anxiety or stress, while 79 per cent reported an increase in self-harm or suicidal thoughts among students.

The government has committed a total of £1.4bn over the next five years towards improving mental health services for children and young people, and is currently working to improve mental health support in schools.

A month-long consultation on peer support in schools was launched in February - but firm plans are yet to be set out.

In May, former childcare minister Sam Gyimah, who at the time had ministerial responsibility for children's mental health services, announced that more schools would join a programme of joint working with child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), following on from a pilot that launched last year.

Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, chair of the education select committee, said: "The undoubted increase in the number of children and young people suffering from mental health issues is extremely alarming. "Children are not able to access the services and get the help they need at an early stage. Some only receive support from under pressure mental health services once their condition has worsened. "Schools and colleges have a key part to play in tackling this problem and the committee will examine what their role should be. It could be providing better access to counselling, promoting responsible social media use and training teachers to spot early warning signs, for example. "But they cannot be expected to do this alone and so we will also be considering what support and resources these education settings will need if they are to successfully boost the emotional wellbeing of pupils and prevent the development of mental health issues."

Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, said: "In the last parliament, I chaired an inquiry into children's and adolescents' mental health services. "The service has long been seriously underfunded and is unable to meet demand, leaving many young people without the help they need. Lack of timely help means that young people can sometimes only access help when they have become seriously unwell. "Young people told us that they wanted services to be available within schools. We are launching a call for evidence for a follow-up inquiry into children and adolescents' mental health and the role of schools in prevention and early intervention. This will include examining the impact of social media and bullying."

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