World Mental Health Day – What Schools Must Do to Support Student Wellbeing

19th May 2020

On World Mental Health Day (10th October) we are focusing on the mental health of children and young people and the role schools have for protecting their students’ wellbeing.

Schools’ Responsibility to Protect Student Mental Health

From September 2019 schools are now expected to highlight children’s mental health and wellbeing. Schools will be judged by Ofsted on how well they support children’s personal development in a variety of ways including:

  • Developing pupils confidence and resilience so that they can keep themselves mentally healthy
  • Promoting equality; making pupils aware that being different is a positive, not a negative
  • Teaching pupils how to be safe online
  • Teaching pupils about healthy relationships

Boy at school

Whole School Approaches To Mental Health

Whole-school approaches to managing mental health are also encouraged, including training at least one staff member to lead on mental health awareness. School leaders should develop a clear vision for how they intend promote mental health and wellbeing. Engaging with stakeholders will be essential to this process. Schools should also develop a policy for mental health that provides guidance on supporting pupils and staff mental health and wellbeing.

Leaders should also ensure that the school has an inclusive ethos that allows for the development of trusting relationships with school staff. This can also include taking a restorative approach to any conflict areas.

Effective PSHCE Is Essential

Good PSHCE teaching is fundamental to developing healthy pupils. Leaders should consider how best to develop children’s social and emotional skills throughout the curriculum and school life. Pupils and staff should feel confident talking about mental health and wellbeing and have skills for both self-management and understand how to ask for help, and where to look for signposting.

Teacher and student high five

Knowledge, Awareness & Understanding of Your Most Vulnerable Students

Safeguarding and pastoral teams should know who their most vulnerable pupils are and proactively support them in improving/ maintaining their mental health. There should be clear guidance provided by the school on how best to do this and how to spot the signs of poor mental health and increased risk. Family Support work is crucial too and engaging with families that are vulnerable, either in the long or short term will help to potentially reduce risks of poor mental health, alongside signposting/ referring families for early intervention.

Family sat together on their sofa

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS work with young people who have difficulties with their emotional, behavioural or mental wellbeing.

Local areas may also have number of different support services available. These might be from the statutory, voluntary or school-based sector, such as an NHS trust, local authority, school or charitable organisation

Children and young people may need help with a wide range of issues at different points in their lives and mental health issues in young people are rising. CAMHs also supports parents, carers and schools if they need help and advice to deal with behavioural or other problems their child is experiencing.

CAMHs consist of multidisciplinary teams that can include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Nurses
  • Support workers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Psychological therapists – this may include child psychotherapists, family psychotherapists, play therapists and creative art therapists
  • Primary mental health link workers
  • Specialist substance misuse workers

Getting help from a specialist CAMHS service is different depending on where you live. There is no universal route and waiting times can considerably vary. Most CAHMS have their own website, which will have information about access, how to make a referral and more contact details, so you can get in touch directly for detailed advice.

Boy in counselling session looking sad

Early Intervention for Student Mental Health

Mental Health issues are a growing concern and one that if tackled early, has better outcomes. Small changes within schools and raising awareness of these issues will help reduce the number of pupils that suffer with long term mental health issues.

Ensuring that effective systems are in place to record and manage any concerns raised by staff will be critical in tracking issues and monitoring interventions and their outcomes. Given that the data being recorded is extremely sensitive it’s also important that schools keep that information secure and have robust systems in place to restrict access when necessary.

Boy studying

Professional Support for Safeguarding Leads

There is an ever-increasing number of concerns being raised relating to children’s mental health and wellbeing in schools and the demands being placed on key members of staff (such as Designated Safeguarding Leads and SENCOs) can be significant. Taking a whole-school approach with effective support from senior leaders and governing bodies will be crucial in making sure that these individuals get the right level of professional support they clearly need.

Teacher working in classroom

Further help for Supporting Student's Mental Health:


Written by Jackie Shanks 19th May 2020, updated by Sam Franklin 8th October 2020