Everyone who works in schools – including janitors and catering staff – should be trained in mental health, according to an organisation which has concerns that many children are not getting the help they need.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) made the call after official publication today of figures initially highlighted by Tes Scotland in October, showing that only a third of school staff think their school responds effectively to pupils experiencing mental health problems.
A SAMH report based on a survey of over 3,000 school staff, Going To Be…Well-Trained, also found that more than two-thirds of teachers do not feel they have received sufficient training in mental health to allow them to carry out their job properly.
'It's got to change'
SAMH is calling on the Scottish government to create a national programme to train all school staff in mental health. A spokeswoman told Tes Scotland that this should cover every worker who comes into contact with pupils, including janitors and catering staff.
A SAMH campaign, Going To Be, is also highlighting that the three children in every classroom will have experienced a mental health problem by the time they are 16, but too often struggle to get the help they need. Teachers' own problems with mental health have also become a major concern.
SAMH chief executive Billy Watson said that, although health and wellbeing is at the heart area of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, the survey “shows clearly that, unlike almost all other subject areas, teachers have had insufficient or no training on mental health to allow them to do their job”.
He added: “The situation is urgent and school staff and pupils can’t wait any longer. It’s got to change.”
The report was launched at Wallace High School in Stirling, where a number of staff have been trained as “mental health first aiders”.
Headteacher Scott Pennock said it was “vital” for schools to “create a culture where young people feel they can talk about mental health”.
Mental health minister Maureen Watt said: “Every child and young person should have access to emotional and mental well-being support in school. To ensure this we’ve started a national review of personal and social education – including consideration of the role of guidance and counselling in local authority schools.” The government had also provided £95,000 to establish a youth commission on mental health services.
Ms Watt added that support should differ depending on local circumstances – and in some cases might include school-based counselling.
MPs last month started an inquiry into mental health provision for young people, after the Westminster government launched a Green Paper on the issue.
In May, the Education Select Committee and the Health Select Committee found that funding pressures were forcing an increasing number of schools to cut back mental health provision, despite rising demand.
In November, children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, backed a call by Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, for the government to review the impact of social media on the mental health of young people.