NHS EnglandA £1.5 million fund has been set up to help young people develop mental health support networks including online advice and workshops to help set them up, the government has announced.

Within this, a digital innovation fund will be used to provide new online resources for parents and young people such as mobile phone apps.

The fund comes just days after NHS England's publication of The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health outlined "significant ongoing failings" in the sector.

The report, produced by the independent Mental Health Taskforce, suggested that the mental health sector has suffered years of neglect and a lack of funding, with only 15% of people who need psychological therapy in England receiving access to care.

It also found suicide rates in England rising after years of decline and that the average waiting time for a child seeking a routine appointment with a mental health practitioner stood at 21 weeks in 2013-14, up from 15 weeks the year before.

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, has called the publication by NHS England "a pivotal moment in the fight for a mentally healthier nation".

"The Mental Health Foundation has been calling for a greater focus on prevention and we are delighted that this is clearly reflected in the report," she said. "Prevention was the key priority to come out of the public engagement consultation that feed into the report. We specifically welcome the creation of a Prevention Concordat to drive forward change, and the increased emphasis on strategic leadership by people with lived experience of mental health problems.

"We unequivocally endorse the Taskforce report when it states that 'prevention matters – it’s the only way that change can be achieved'. Beyond the economic cost of £105 billion a year, poor mental health is destroying lives. The report acknowledges that we need to do far more to ensure good mental health for all and this means stepping in at the first opportunity. At present, too little is done to prevent mental ill health both with the population at large and with at risk groups. Providing the right range of support, including prevention, has enabled us to become a physically healthier nation. This must now be replicated in mental health. The report, if acted on, provides a once in a generation opportunity to achieve this."

A new advisory group will gather evidence from young people about their experiences and work with schools that are running successful peer-to-peer support networks, so this approach can be extended to thousands of schools across the country. The group will be supported by experts from charities, including YoungMinds, headteachers, and young people themselves.

Peer support networks can mean anything from informal buddying schemes to one-on-one and group sessions with trained support, and can happen face-to-face or online. They can help young people show solidarity with their classmates and friends; tackle the isolation and insecurity that often accompany mental illness; and help take the stigma out of mental health by improving young people’s understanding.