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Mental health and wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing

Information, guidance, and resources about mental health and wellbeing in schools.

Good mental health during childhood and adolescence is important because it allows children to develop socially, and to learn important skills like:

  • self-confidence 
  • resilience
  • how to cope better with stress and challenges

It also lays the foundation for good mental health throughout their life, supporting them to grow into happy, healthy adults.

School experience has an important influence over a young person’s mental health.

Schools are in a good position to support children and young people to understand how they can look after their own mental health and wellbeing. School staff are also in a good position to identify pupils who need more support. 

Educational attainment and positive satisfaction with life are protective factors for young people’s mental wellbeing.

Overview of mental illness in young people

Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14, but if children have access to earlier help this can improve outcomes throughout the whole of their lives.

The statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education (2020) (PDF) includes ‘preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development’ as part of the official definition of safeguarding and makes strong links between the mental health of pupils and a school’s statutory duties in relation to safeguarding.

Mental health is closely linked with social, economic, and environmental factors so that some young people are at increased risk of mental ill health and there is clear inequality across the population.

Those who are most vulnerable include:

  • children in low income families
  • those who have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) 
  • those involved in social care 
  • those who have been excluded from school
  • pupils who have special educational needs 
  • pupils with a long-term illness, disability, or medical condition 
  • those who experience bullying 
  • those who experience racism and discrimination
  • those in the youth justice system 

Poor mental health is also linked to risky behaviour such as use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been associated with extra factors that have affected the mental health of children and young people. While some children may have become less anxious during periods of lockdown and school closure, national studies suggest that for others mental ill health has increased.

National studies (2017) suggested that 1 in 9 (10.8%) of 5 to 16 year olds had a least one mental disorder.

When the study was repeated in 2020, this had increased to 1 in 6 (16%).

Improving children and young peoples’ mental health is an important local and national priority. It’s the focus of several local organisations and strategies, including:

Best practice guidance for mental health in schools

Whole school approach

Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education promote a whole school approach to improve mental health and wellbeing in a school or college.

This approach is based on practitioner feedback and evidence of what works. PHE has produced guidance on promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing (PDF).

A whole school approach requires schools to follow and implement the following eight principles:

  • leadership and management that supports efforts to promote emotional health and wellbeing
  • an ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity
  • curriculum teaching and learning that promotes resilience and supports social and emotional learning
  • enabling the student voice to influence decisions
  • staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of students
  • identifying need and monitoring the impact of interventions
  • working with parents and carers
  • targeted support and appropriate referral

Guidance on buying intervention programmes 

There’s a huge range of programmes that schools can buy in as part of their whole school approach.

You need to make sure that what your school commits time and money to is likely to work and won’t harm your pupils or staff.

Your school’s Primary Mental Health Specialist and your link Educational Psychologist may be able to provide guidance on programmes or interventions.

Before investing in a program or intervention, you should think about whether:

  • the intervention or program has an evidence base that you can be confident in
  • the intervention or program is recommended by, for example, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) or another similar reputable organisation (note: that not all evidence based interventions are recommended by the EEF or NICE but many are)
  • the organisation offering the intervention can put you in touch with a school like yours, who’s had success with the intervention and:
    • the intervention has been evaluated (ideally this should be an independent evaluation)
    • anything has changed in response to evaluation
    • your staff will like it and find it feasible to implement 
  • You have staff who are sufficiently skilled/trained to run the intervention (and if not, how you might go about getting to this point)
  • it might cause any harm

You should also think about how your school will monitor the impact of the programme. 

The Early Intervention Foundation Guidebook lets you search for interventions by topic and age group. The guidebook:

  • gives each intervention a score for how effective it is and for how much it costs
  • explains how the intervention works and what context it’s more successful in

Lesson plans

Healthy Schools recommended schemes of work and lessons plans focusing on mental health and wellbeing are available on our PSHE page.

Services in Bristol 

See the NHS Directory of Mental Health and Wellbeing Services for Children and Young People for 

  • support and services in Bristol
  • local activities to help you look after your wellbeing
  • self-help tools

Guidance for schools on supporting young people who self-harm

Self-harm guidance for schools in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (pdf, 181KB) (opens new window) .

Mental health organisations

Organisations that can offer resources and information include:

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

The Anna Freud Centre is a leading mental health charity working towards transforming mental health provision in the UK. It offers a broad range of quality-assured information, advice, and resources to support schools and further education settings including:

  • a 5-step evidence-based framework to help schools develop a whole school approach to approach to mental health and wellbeing 
  • Schools in Mind, a free network sharing practical, academic, and clinical expertise about mental health and wellbeing in schools and FE colleges.
  • Mentally healthy schools, quality-assured mental health resources, information & advice for schools and further education settings
  • Research and practice 
  • Peer support, support, and guidance in setting up peer support programmes
  • Training, a range of workshops and opportunities for commissioning training for your school

Anti-Bullying Alliance

The ABA is a coalition of organisations led by the National Children’s Bureau, working together to stop bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. It produces a range of tools and resources to help schools develop ant-bullying policies and advice on reducing and respond to bullying. ABA also offers free online training.

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

Training and online resources for professionals, parents and carers and young people. Includes resources for young people in school and those who are about to go to university.

Mind

Information for young people aged 11 to 18 about a mental health and wellbeing, getting support and a page for parents and carers.

MindEd Hub

Free educational resource on children and young people's mental health. It has e-learning and advice for professionals and families. Also includes support for frontline staff working through the COVID-19 pandemic to help manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP)

Provides training and support to schools who want to introduce mindfulness.

Mental health & stigma

Time to Change is dedicated to challenging mental health stigma. They produce free resources for schools, including guidance on working with parents, running campaigns and assemblies.

Young Minds

Young Minds is a charity that aims to ensure that young people get the mental health support they need at the right time. They offer training and consultancy for professionals and have a wide range of resources for young people, and for staff in schools to help them develop skills and knowledge to support children and young people.

Resources and information to support the curriculum, teaching and learning

PSHE Association

The national body for PSHE education provides quality resources, updated guidance, training, and support for schools on teaching about mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Resources and information about staff mental health and wellbeing

Education Support

Mental health and wellbeing support for the whole education workforce. The resources cover both individual needs, including a free confidential 24 hour helpline, as well as whole school and setting approaches to staff mental health. They also offer some bespoke support that schools can pay for. 

Mental Health at Work

A range of resources, and toolkits to support mental health in the workplace.

Workplace Wellbeing

Sets out national standards for action across several areas, including mental health and wellbeing, which provides a guide for improvements in workplace health.

Bristol City Council

Guidance on workplace health and wellbeing for employers and employees on a range of topics for Bristol City Council employees.

These leaflets are produced by Community Access Support Service, aimed at adults:

Resources and information for parents, carers and families

HappyMaps

Up-to-date resources on emotional health for parents and carers of children and young people of all ages. 

Department for Education guidance and advice