A PACKAGE of new measures aimed at improving mental health amongst pupils and students is at the core of the Scottish Government’s latest programme for government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the measures, including making sure every secondary school has a counselling service, will be backed by £250 million over the next four years.

As part of this, £30m will be invested in school nurses and counselling, while plans will be developed to ensure young people with the most serious mental illnesses get fast-tracked care.

The First Minister said: “Mental health is just as important as physical health and we recognise that, right now, support for our children and young people in particular is not good enough.

“We plan a significant investment in the range of support available to our young people, which will see issues tackled earlier.”

To ensure children have the support they need the Government has pledged to invest over £60m to provide for around 350 school counsellors.

In addition, an extra 250 school nurses will be in place by 2022 and teachers will be given training to deal with mental health issues.

Mental health problems have also been a growing concern in universities and colleges and Ms Sturgeon said 80 extra counsellors would be recruited over the next four years with an investment of £20m.

The details came as official figures revealed child and adolescent mental health waiting times reached their worst ever levels.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, asked: “Why has it taken until the day we see the worst ever waits on record for children to receive treatment before the government acts?”

Ms Sturgeon also announced plans to press ahead with a Headteachers’ Charter to give more power to school leaders - although this will no longer be backed up by legislation after the plan - part of a proposed Education Bill - failed to secure enough support.

Teaching unions welcomed the continuing commitment to close the attainment gap between rich and poor, but called for more investment.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “There was little in the statement regarding more resources for schools, nothing about action to tackle growing teacher shortages and nothing about a commitment to ensure a fair pay deal for teachers.”

The Humanist Society Scotland welcomed an announcement the Scottish Government intends to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law.

Humanists believes this will result in older pupils having the right to opt out of religious observance. Currently only parents have the right to do so on their child’s behalf.