This week’s blog post is based on the webinar delivered by Place2Be – a charity that supports young people with their mental health. In this webinar, they use their experience of working with young people and schools to share a number of research-informed insights, practical tools and suggestions to help support emotional wellbeing. You can watch the full recording of the webinar here.
In 2017 the NHS conducted a survey which found that one in ten children, aged 5-16, were reported as having a probable mental disorder. However, when they conducted this survey again in 2020, that statistic has risen to one in six. Contributing factors were said to include issues surrounding family income (deprivation and disadvantage); heavy use of social media; being bullied; and arguing with parents.
As 50% of adult mental illnesses are said to start before the age of 14, early intervention is vital to addressing these problems and support should be provided before these problems escalate. Based on the research they have conducted so far, the charity Place2Be found that general anxiety, attention difficulties and low self-esteem were most cited by young people as having an adverse effect on their mental health (see below).
A Family Approach
In 2017, the Department for Education published a report into supporting mental health in schools where they recommended engaging with parents and families. As part of their integrated approach, Place2Be try to ensure early intervention by involving parents and families in the child’s education and development.
One of the ways in which have tried to achieve this is through their digital platform: Parenting Smart. Practical advice and tips are offered to all families through the website and they can opt to work through modules on topics such as ‘My child is anxious’, ‘Understanding sibling rivalry’, ‘Using praise and rewards’, ‘The importance of boundaries and consequences’, ‘Reading with your child’ and ‘Cultural identity’ for example.
A School Approach
In line with the recommendations made by the 2017 DfE report, Place2Be also offer a school training programme which has been designed to improve educators’ awareness of the emotional wellbeing of their pupils. This specialist teacher training course encourages school staff – including school leaders and governors – to act as mental health champions and the programme aims to enhance educators’ understanding of children’s mental health, by introducing approaches which can be used to foster well-being in schools and communities.
The programme focuses on four key areas and is facilitated by a clinician. These four areas include: understanding mental health and emotional well-being; nature vs. nurture; ‘how can I help?’ and ‘mental health: everyone’s business’.
What can schools do to support good mental health?
One of the key things for schools to remember when supporting mental health is that a small increase in knowledge can lead to a fundamental shift in culture. This is why it’s essential for schools to be educated in how to support the mental health of young people. Another key tenet is that we all need to take responsibility for recognising when a young person is struggling.
Finally, it is vital that young people are involved in decisions concerning their own mental health. Therefore, training courses such as those provided by Place2Be should run in conjunction with interventions targeted directly at students i.e. 1:1 counselling. According to the DfE’s latest report, this integrated and combined approach is said to be one of the most effective ways in helping to tackle this rise in student mental health issues.
If you would like to find out more about the teacher training courses offered by Place2Be, you can find out more about them here.
 NHS, (2020), ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020: Wave 1 follow up to the 2017 Survey’, Available: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2020-wave-1-follow-up Accessed: 11 February 2022.
 R. C. Kessler, P. Berglund, O. Demler, R. Jin, K. R. Merikangas, E. E. Walters, (2005), ‘Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication’, Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602.
 Pro Bono Economics, (2018), ‘Economic Evaluation of Place2Be’s Counselling Service in Primary Schools’, Available: https://www.place2be.org.uk/media/5cgpoqiz/economic-evaluation-of-place2be-counselling-service.pdf Accessed: 11 February 2022.
 Department for Education, (2017), ‘Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges: Engaging Parents and Families’, Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1020249/Promoting_children_and_young_people_s_mental_health_and_wellbeing.pdf Accessed: 10 February 2022.
 Department for Education, (2017), ‘Developing a Whole Organisational Approach’ Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/634731/Practice_example-Whole_organisational_approach.pdf Accessed: 10 February 2022.
 Department for Education, (2020), ‘Promoting Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing’, Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1020249/Promoting_children_and_young_people_s_mental_health_and_wellbeing.pdf Accessed: 10 February 2022.