Insufficient Mental Health Awareness in Schools

school playground

There is need to take urgent actions, taking into consideration how Mental health and emotional wellbeing is important to a child’s growth, says Pam Steel.

Mr Steel, a teacher working at Wallace High School in Stirling, talks about how Important it is to belong to a school that recognises the importance of and prioritises mental health. Has a Mental health instructor, I have the full support of my headteacher, which has allowed me to embed a whole-school  oriented approach to mental health, including orientation and training  for staff and pupils on mental health issues.

But, it is a shame this isn’t always the case;  in 2017, a SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) survey of school staff found that two-thirds of teachers didn’t feel that they had received sufficient training in mental health to allow them to carry out their role.

As a matter of factly, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence is clear that health and wellbeing is the “responsibility of all” teachers in a school. Practically speaking, it should permeate all subject areas, with the themes of health and wellbeing being taught, discussed or woven through subjects in every area.

Unfortunately, these subject matter is not always addressed with the right amount of knowledge or technical know-how. There’s insufficient information on which aspects of mental health or emotional wellbeing should be delivered at each level or stage of a child’s life. More often than not, reachers don’t receive facts, guidance, or suggestions on what or how to deliver, or  introduce the topic of mental health appropriately or sensitively with pupils. If they  don’t have this information, and have little or no training on it, how then do we we expect them to know where to start? And there is the issue of knowing if what they are teaching this young lads is even correct, accurate or relevant.

The stigma that surrounds mental health victims and patients has always prevented conversations on mental health from happening in communities, schools, and in the teaching profession. Very little or no mental health continuing professional development (CPD) exists for teachers or school staff, and there are very few appropriate teaching resources.

Only recently did people start talking about mental health openly in education, and with it, a recognition that schools play a vital role in educating and supporting young people. Also, we’re seeing children and young people increasingly realising the importance of talking about and looking after our mental health and wellbeing, with more gaining the confidence to ask for help at school.  This only serves as a wake-up call and thus we need to make sure that teachers are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to allow them to deliver support in practice.

In the month of May, SAMH launched We All Have Mental Health, a new, free online learning resource which aims to equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to respond to pupils who are experiencing a mental health problem.

Knowing fully well that this online resource is not the total solution, but we think its  as step in the right direction.