THE number of children being referred to mental health services through their schools has more than tripled in the past year.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust saw referrals to children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) rise from 61 in 2016 to 2017, to 204 in 2017 to 2018.

And the majority of those were children under 11, with 119 referrals from primary schools in the past year.

The youngest child being referred for mental health services was four years old.

But roughly a third of the children referred were not deemed eligible for support from CAMHS.

Across the South West, the total referrals increased year on year, from 1,515 in 2014 to 2,026 in 2017.

Now the NSPCC is calling on the government to increase funding to the charity’s Childline service, which has seen a 26 per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions it holds with children about mental health issues in the past four years.

The service relies on public funding, but says it needs extra help from the government to carry on.

In 2016 to 2017, children in the UK received 101,454 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health, self-harm or suicidal feelings and thoughts.

Currently Childline counsellors can only respond to 75 per cent of children who need help.

Many children call Childline because of long waiting lists to access CAMHS services, or being turned away all together.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said: “Our research shows schools are increasingly referring children for specialist mental health treatment, often when the child is at crisis point.

“Childline plays a vital role in supporting children with their mental health, and many turn to us when they are struggling to get access to specialist treatment. Early counselling from Childline could also help relieve the pressure on CAMHS.

“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.”