Due to alarming rates of suicide among teens in the UK, it’s clear that more needs to be done to provide mental health support to young people.
But the problem is not confined to the UK – it is in fact a global issue. According to the World Health Organization, “Worldwide 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s.”
Although a new subject called ‘mindfulness’ has been introduced in the UK as part of the country’s efforts to teach children how to be more mentally healthy, it really is a community effort to make sure young people are getting the help they need so that early intervention can save lives.
More and more students are found to be suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and low self-confidence, with some even resorting to self-harm.
One glaring problem surrounding mental health is that people who suffer from these conditions often feel isolated and alone, making the problem worse when they feel they can’t seek help.
This is why the school environment plays an important role in providing support and watching out for warning signs in students who face issues.
Not all schools have adequate counselling services, and even more worryingly, the government has reduced funding for mental health support in some schools.
– More than 8 in 10 teachers said pupils’ #mentalhealth has deteriorated in England over the past 2 years
– Fewer than 1/2 said their school has a counsellor
– Just over 1/3 had training in the past year to help them support young people’s mental healthhttps://t.co/c3rXalSTXP
— Place2Be (@Place2Be) April 17, 2019
According to Lisa Fathers, a Mental Health First Aid National Trainer & Instructor, “What also really matters is adopting a whole-school approach, where pupils understand health and wellbeing, yet can also recognise poor mental health, in addition to feeling that they can talk to their peers or seek the relevant help. ”
Teachers play an important role as they spend a lot of time with students, observing them during class time, and can easily spot changes in behavior as they see them almost every day.
That’s why mental health training for teachers could equip them with the right tools to help students who are experiencing personal problems, which could involve just being a supportive listening ear when they need to talk.
Fathers wrote, “While improved funding for mental health services is crucial and welcome, we need to place greater emphasis on recognising that many children just want to be able to talk to someone to stop their problems from escalating. Having the skills to spot early enough when someone is in need can make all the difference.”
Lisa Fathers is also the Director of Teaching School and Partnerships, Alliance for Learning (part of the Bright Futures Educational Trust).
At the Alliance for Learning, a teaching training provider based in Manchester, UK, mental health first aid (MHFA) has been embedded into the teacher training courses for both new and experienced teachers and support staff, part of a strategy to support schools in tackling mental health crisis.
Recently I was lucky to be able to attend the mental health training. It was very good. All teachers need it so we can better understand the struggles our students have today in this complicated society.
— Jeanne jendrzejewski (@jmjendrz) April 20, 2019
Fathers wrote, “Commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, teachers have been given mental health first aid training and young people have become mental health champions.
“Also as part of the pilot, Place2Be led the mental health champions training for school leaders, aiming to work with two individuals from each of the schools. This involved workshops and consultation meetings with the objective of positively changing the whole school ethos towards mental health.”
The programme involved 64 primary and secondary schools across Greater Manchester, and results showed that several children found that talking openly about mental health gave them more self-confidence and they learned to overcome instances of low self-esteem.
Interestingly, “teachers and school leaders also reported being more aware of the need to improve their own health and wellbeing, delivering holistic benefits for the school overall,” wrote Fathers.
“While improved funding for mental health services is crucial and welcome, we need to place greater emphasis on recognising that many children just want to be able to talk to someone to stop their problems from escalating. Having the skills to spot early enough when someone is in need can make all the difference.”
Last year, it was announced that all schools in the UK will be offered mental health training by the year 2020. With any luck, other countries will soon follow suit.