Guidance teachers feel they are holding back "a wave of distress" and should be trained to deliver talking therapies to pupils, a leading cognitive behaviour researcher has claimed.
This is the view of Chris Williams, professor of psychosocial psychiatry at Glasgow University, who is concerned that, while children have been encouraged to talk about their feelings and teachers urged to listen, services are too stretched to cater for distressed youngsters.
"The problem is it's hit or miss whether they can refer these children to professionals who can help - and teachers often feel overwhelmed by the demands," he told the annual conference for educational psychologists in Scotland.
One in four young people suffers from a mental health problem, and Professor Williams suggested guidance teachers should be trained to deliver cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), reinforced by universal awareness training for all teachers.
"Educational psychologists can now have a key role in supporting teachers in offering written and other teaching resources using the CBT model," he said. "These resources teach the key life skills young people really need to learn - such as building confidence, tackling negative thinking and facing their fears."
Some materials were too sophisticated to use with youngsters, but he believed his Living Life to the Full programme was pitched at the right level. "The key support skills needed are those teachers are excellent at, which is engaging and supporting young people," he said.
LIFTING THE MOOD
A talking therapy programme run by teachers in North Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire schools reduced low mood and anxiety among S3 and S5 pupils, researchers found. However, in three young people there was no change.
According to educational psychologist Nick Smiley, who trialled the Living Life to the Full programme in an East Renfrewshire school, a major benefit was that depressed girls got help which they would not have otherwise received.
The programme cost pound;50 per school, with the eight accompanying books costing 50p each if bought in bulk.
Tips from "10 Things You Can Do To Feel Happier Straight Away" by Chris Williams, which forms part of the Living Life to the Full programme
2) Eat a banana - the fruit can produce the same happy chemical in your head as a pill
3) See the world for the amazing place it is
4) Drink smoothies - without fibre your system clogs up and you get all sad and sluggish
5) Eat breakfast - when you do without, your body sulks all day
6) Work faster - when you clean the car or house or do the garden, that's exercise, but exercise only works properly when you get out of breath and your heart starts pumping
7) Play music - music cheers you up
8) Cut out one burger or take-away per week
9) Do a small kindness for someone else every day
10) Remember the good things and write them down daily.