Special Needs

Averting Disaster

What can schools do to spot and ward off mental health issues? Dr Margot Sunderland shows how teachers are in the perfect position to offer early interventions.
Counsellor and child in discussions

In 2017, 98 per cent of teachers and school leaders came into contact with pupils they believed were experiencing mental health problems, according to a National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Teacher’s survey. And with children spending 190 days at school per year, teachers are in a prime position to provide much-needed support to pupils with mild to moderate mental health problems. This is reinforced in the recent (2017)Government Green Paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision,which states,There is evidence that appropriately-trained and supported staff such as teachers, school nurses, counsellors, and teaching assistants can achieve results comparable to those achieved by trained therapists in delivering a number of interventions addressing mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety, conduct disorder, substance use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder’. Research also shows that, on average, it takes 10 years for a child to get help for a mental health condition (Centre for Mental Health, Missed Opportunities Report, 2016)—and even then, only half who seek help get better, so teachers play a crucial role in spotting, addressing and mitigating mental health issues early on.

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