Mental health and wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing

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

Children and young people with good mental health can cope better with stress and life’s challenges, and grow into happy, healthy adults.

Schools can teach children and young people what they can do to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

Because schools see pupils so often, over such a long period of time, they’re in a good position to identify issues and intervene early.

Overview of mental illness in young people

Mental illness in young people is linked to:

  • low educational achievement
  • being excluded from school
  • unemployment, low income and poverty
  • risky behaviour
  • poor physical health

Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14. It’s important for schools to intervene early by supporting the whole family. Support from an early age makes it less likely that children and young people will have serious mental health difficulties in later life.

National studies (2004) suggest that:

  • around one in ten children aged 5 to 16 in the UK have a diagnosable mental health condition
  • many more will experience low level mental health problems, which specialist services aren’t aware of

Based on these statistics, around 9,800 Bristol children under the age of 18 have a diagnosable mental health condition. The rates are likely higher because in Bristol the risk factors for poor mental health are higher.

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

A whole school approach to improving mental health and wellbeing helps make sure pupils, teachers, staff, and parents work together.

Current research consistently shows that using a whole school approach is the most effective intervention and that it’s particularly effective at improving outcomes for those most at risk. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England recommend that schools use this approach.

A whole school approach means your school needs to:

  • identifying mental health needs within the school
  • having leadership in place for mental health and wellbeing
  • delivering high quality teaching around mental health and wellbeing
  • having a culture that promotes mental health and wellbeing
  • having an environment that promotes mental health and wellbeing
  • making sure pupils and staff are aware of and able to access a range of mental health services
  • supporting staff wellbeing
  • being committed to pupil and parent participation

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

Local and national services directories

The Healthy Schools Emotional Health and Wellbeing Directory

Supporting a whole school approach to improving mental health and wellbeing.

This Directory outlines potential sources of support, training and resources on a range of themes linked to promoting good emotional health and wellbeing for children and young people. The directory is in the process of being updated and some of the services’ details may not be correct.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the quality of the sources meet best practice, schools should undertake their own quality assurance checks prior to engaging with them.

Lesson plans

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

Mental health organisations

Organisations that can offer resources and information include:


A website for Bristol parent and carers. Reliable and up-to-date resources on emotional health for children of all ages, from babies to young people. 

Heads Together: Mentally Healthy Schools

Mentally Healthy Schools brings together quality-assured information, advice and resources to help primary schools understand and promote children’s mental health and wellbeing. The aim is to increase staff awareness, knowledge and confidence to support pupils.

PSHE Association

The national body for PSHE education provides quality resources, guidance, training and support for schools.

Anna Freud Centre

Resources for schools, leaflets for parents and expert guidance and advice.

Anti Bullying Alliance

Produce free guidance and resources for schools.

Time to change

Dedicated to challenging the stigma surrounding mental health issues. They produce free resources and guidance for schools, including guidance on whole school approach, lesson plans, and assemblies.

Young Minds

Undertake campaigns and research, and make resources available to professionals. They also run a helpline for adults worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of anyone up to the age of 25. They have a catalogue of resources for commissioning support services.

Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH)

Provide specifically tailored information for young people, parents, teachers and carers about mental health through their Parents and Youth Info A-Z.


Have information about where children and young people can get support with a mental health problem.

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

Provide free resources such as model mental health policies for schools, webinars for schools, podcasts, and leaflets.

Free educational resource on children and young people's mental health. Has e-learning and advice for professionals and families.



  • web-based teaching resources about emotional health, coping strategies and building resilience
  • talks raising awareness of emotional health and the Samaritans
  • step by step support after an attempted or suspected suicide, over email to or over the phone on 0808 168 2528

Staff health and wellbeing

Guidance on workplace health and wellbeing for employers and employees on a range of topics can be found on the Bristol City Council website.

Mental Health at Work

This website brings together a range of resources, training and information aimed at transforming mental health in the workplace.

Mindfulness in Schools

A national, not-for-profit charity that provides training and support to schools who want to introduce mindfulness.

Bristol City Council leaflets

These leaflets are produced by Community Access Support Service:

Mental health research and toolkits

Five days to wellbeing documents

The 'Five Ways to Wellbeing' documents were created for the Bristol Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. However, they can be used by schools at any point during the academic year.