Community leaders from across the city are calling on the council to roll out schools-based counselling amid fears of a mental health crisis.

More than 250 people from Brighton and Hove Citizens, an alliance of community groups across the city, will meet with council leader Phelim Mac Cafferty and Dr Jane Padmore from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to urge them to back the measure and will hear stories from young people who have been unable to access mental health support due to an overwhelmed system.

The group said that the current system of support means that students who do not need higher-tiered support from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), but require more help than teachers are trained to provide, are “slipping through the gaps”.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Citizens said: “With more and more young people finding it difficult to cope with their mental health, and with ever-growing waiting lists for CAMHS, investing in preventative measures such as schools-based counselling is key.

“We’ve spoken to thousands of young people, parents and school staff who all want to see this happen, and when the evidence is clear that counselling reduces pressures on the NHS and saves money, it seems to be a no-brainer.”

The meeting of the community leaders with Cllr Mac Cafferty and Dr Padmore will take place this evening at Varndean School in Balfour Road.

Fi, a student at the school, said that adequately trained counsellors would enable her to better focus on her schoolwork and enjoy life more.

She said: “When my friends confided their problems in me, I felt that I could not tell anyone how concerned I was as it was other people’s business.

“I soon became obsessed with my friends’ well-being over mine and I eventually developed depression.

“I spent over a year feeling miserable and believing that I was the one who had to help my friends get better as I was the one they had decided to talk to and didn’t have anyone to talk to who I felt was trained. 

“Life felt so overwhelming. I simply didn’t know what to do.

“My school helped me talk about my feelings, but if I could have spoken to a counsellor it would have made me manage my feelings much better.”

According to the Health Foundation, as many as one in six children suffer from a mental health condition.

Brighton and Hove City Council have been approached for comment.