Change Is Needed To Support Mental Health In Schools and Strengthen the Workforce of the Future

The effects of professional life on mental health are well documented. Millions of adults struggle with their mental health at work, and the same is very much true for children and teenagers in school. 

With so many children suffering every day without any help from schools, this is leading to a mental health crisis which, unless addressed promptly, is likely to have a direct impact on mental health in the workplace of the future.

Examining these statistics on mental health in schools demonstrates just how big the problem is:

  • Around 1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder
  • Around 1 in 10 young people suffer from mental health challenges that impact their education
  • As many as 80% of children suffering receive no mental health care at all
  • Only 40% of students with mental health disorders actually finish high school – the national average for all students is 76%

All of these shocking statistics, along with many more, can be found here.

Many students suffer from mental health issues, yet very few get the help they need. As a result, they struggle to graduate from school, which impacts them later on in life. Big changes are needed to turn the tide and tackle mental health problems in schools. What can be done about this?

Taking a whole school/college approach

Many schools choose to hire a single individual as a mental health councillor, yet while this can provide some help for students suffering, it is rarely right for everyone. 

Supporting mental health in educational institutions can only be done if the entire organisation commits to change and make a difference.

A whole-school approach refers to making significant changes throughout the school. 

This publication by Public Health England explores the concept in more detail. Here is a summary of some of the points that it raises, and what it means for a school or college to take a whole-school approach to mental health:

  • Introduce policies to tackle the cause of mental health issues – this can include policies to combat bullying, which is often a source of many mental health issues in schools. 

  • Improve staff training – members of staff in schools are not equipped to deal with mental health issues. Ironically, many of the teachers will have first aid training, but do they have mental first aid training? They can treat cuts and bruises and other physical health issues, but what about the mental side of things? Staff should be put on mental health first aid courses to learn how to deal with children that come to them with these issues. Or, more importantly, learn how to spot the signs of a mental health problem from afar. 

  • Implement ways for pupils to get the right treatment – schools need to implement different ways for children and teenagers to get help when they think they need it. This can include phone hotlines that kids or teenagers can call when they feel down and want someone to speak to. 

  • Improve communication with parents – as well as training staff, schools should communicate with parents and provide educational resources helping them spot mental health problems in their children and what they can do to support them. 

By taking a whole-school approach, it changes the way a school frames the topic of mental health. It is no longer an afterthought, and the focus is on identifying causes, preventing issues, and learning how to support kids that are suffering.

By taking the right steps, this will empower young adults to enter the workforce feeling more accepted, valued, more supported, and give them an enhanced sense of wellbeing – which will have a positive effect on their own mental health as adults, and everyone around them in the workplace too.

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