Only a third of teachers say that they have been appropriately trained by their school to deal with pupils' mental health problems, according to goverment-funded research.
And just half know how to help pupils with these problems to access appropriate support. Classroom teachers were less likely than senior leaders to know how best to support pupils, according to questions commissioned by the Department for Education in the annual Teacher Voice survey.
More than 2,000 teachers took part in the poll, published by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Of these, only 32 per cent agreed that there was appropriate training for teachers in schools to enable them to identify mental health issues in pupils.
However, 62 per cent said that they felt equipped to identify pupil behaviour that may be linked to mental health problems.
This suggests, the report states, “that knowledge on how to identify potential mental health issues may be derived from means other than formal, in-school training”.
TES recently reported that mental health services in schools are so poor that staff have been resorting to ringing 999, in order to ensure treatment for pupils. And teachers are not alone in their uncertainty around mental health issues: a survey last month revealed that 55 per cent of parents do not speak to their children about the subject.
Reports of mental health problems among pupils – including anorexia and self-harm – have been increasing in recent years. A report from London Metropolitan University argued that this was a direct response to exam stress, and the pressure of the testing regime in primary and secondary schools.
Lucie Russell, of the mental health charity Young Minds, said that many teachers have spoken of feeling helpless when dealing with the increasing need for mental health support among their pupils.
“It is vitally important that teachers know the warning signs of emerging mental health issues, so that they can look out for any changes in their pupils, and act on any concerns they have,” she said.