Mental health to be a priority in schools

As Theresa May called for mental health to be a priority in schools today, Enda Egan, Head of the Young People's Programme, responds to the government’s announcement.

Enda Egan, Head of the Young People’s Programme at Mental Health UK said:

The importance of providing early preventative support for mental health can never be overstated. That’s why today’s announcement by the Prime Minister that training will be provided for all teachers on how to spot the signs of mental health issues is good news. Getting help at the right time and place can help to equip young people for the challenges that they’ll face later in life.

It’s been clear for a long time that there is a growing need for support in this area. Most mental health problems begin in adolescence. Teachers are well placed to meet this challenge head on, but to do so they need to be both equipped to identify the warning signs and have the confidence to know what to do next. Our own research has found that this is something teachers would like more support with.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts by staff at Lloyds Banking Group, this September Mental Health UK will be launching Bloom, a new Young Persons Programme designed to work closely with young people and teachers throughout all four nations of the UK.

Over an 8-week period, teachers will receive training and support to deliver workshops based on resilience building, specifically tailored to two different age groups; 14-16 year and 17-18 year olds.

Bloom will develop a supportive culture of character-building resilience amongst young people and confidence amongst teaching staff. On Week One we will train the designated teachers (three per school) on the content of the programme, working to ensure they are fully prepared and confident with the delivery. For the next six weeks we co-deliver with teachers the series of workshops focusing on areas that matter to young people such as exam stress, coping with bullying, making decisions about the future, and the challenges of juggling work and studies.

Once Bloom has been delivered, we leave a legacy behind in the school through trained teachers, who are committed to continue delivery of the programme with easy to use resources. We remain in contact with the school and are there to support them if issues present. We return at three, six, and 12 months to evaluate the sustainability of the programme in the school.

This effort supports a school environment where conversations about well-being and coping are the norm. It will aim to encourage a culture where young people feel ok if things aren’t going according to plan, if exam results aren’t as good as expected, if they are being bullied or struggling to cope with one of the many transitions a teenager can experience. This can only be made possible if the teaching staff feel equipped to have these conversations with young people and know what to do when one of their students isn’t coping. These conversations, and access to adequate support, have an important role to play in preventing a young person’s trajectory to more severe mental health challenges later in life.

So while today’s announcement is positive, it’s delivery will be dependent on the support we can provide teachers.

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