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Creating a Supportive Environment to Talk About Mental Health in Schools

One of the main issues highlighted is that mental health is not a priority in schools:

“It’s felt to be more important for you to get qualifications than be healthy and happy at school.”

“It’s all about how to pass exams.”

“Teaching pupils about mental health is way down the list of priorities.”

“We’ve had no information through PSE about mental health.”

“Teachers are really stretched too thin, there aren’t enough resources.”

“25 students in one class is way too many for a class to be able to give one-to-one support. It should be like 10 or 15.”

“You have to be put on a list and wait months to see the school psychologist – not good.”

“My school counsellor has a waiting list of 170 people.”

“Counselling sessions are… infrequent.”

“They say they can help but [there] doesn’t appear to be many resources.”

“I am aware there is a health spot but it is not promoted.”

“There is nothing that we’re really made aware of.”

“If you ask a teacher for information or help, they will give it.”

“[We have] reliable and understanding teachers.”

“They teachers are just friendly.”

“I always have someone who will listen to me.”

“Supportive teachers who will listen to you and take positive steps with you.”

“They make time to sit and listen and they do not interrupt until you have ended and they make it as friendly as possible so it is not formal and is in a private area.”

Comments suggest that the informal peer to peer support available through such environments is helpful for encouraging young people to talk about mental health:

“I love the metal music genre. When I was going to a gig they had a public speaker come on before the main headliner and talk about [mental health]. It made me feel almost safe and comfortable as the issue was being addressed to a crowd of people that are stereotypically known for struggling with these issues. Everyone who knew someone with depression or struggling with it themselves put up a light by phone or a lighter. It was quite moving in a way to see most people had their light up and there was a feeling of acceptance.”

Young People’s Recommendations:

Encourage positive conversations about mental health through education:

“We should learn [about mental health] from as young as primary school, so it is something you grow up with and is embedded in your thinking.”

“Integrate mental health into classes more so it becomes the norm to talk about it.”

“Mental health should be talked about as a positive thing, not something that is only a ‘thing’ when there is a problem.”

Make information about mental health care more available and accessible in schools, including information about where to access support:

“Make it mandatory in schools for info to be distributed at [the] start of term.”

“There should be posters in every school, in really obvious places, but they should be bright and colourful, not of people looking depressed.”

“Make learning about mental health fun and enjoyable by having workshops or mental health events.”

“Offer more in education sessions which clearly highlight solutions and support centres.”

There should be more mental health support available at school.

“Ensure every child has regular and reliable access to 1st tier mental health services in their school.”

“Mental health counsellors/nurses should be available in all high schools.”

“There should be a nationally set ratio of counsellors to students in schools.”

“Have class relaxation sessions to relax when stressed.”

Ensure staff are equipped to deal with mental health concerns.

“Train teachers in mental health. I think that if someone does have a mental health issue then even knowing that the teachers know how to handle a situation would make them feel better.”

“Young people need to know that it is okay to suffer from mental health issues, but they need to have support. Teachers need to be asking every once in a while one question: ‘How are you doing right now?’”