SAMH calls for a “whole-school approach” to mental health by having all members of staff to be trained in pupil mental health by 2018
A NEW SURVEY has revealed that at least two-thirds of teachers in Scotland feel that they have not received adequate training in pupil mental health, leaving them unable to do their jobs properly.
Research from the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) also found that that only one in 100 could recall doing any detailed work on mental health when they were at university.
One teacher said: “Teachers are not encouraged in this area. They are not provided support or time. They make flippant remarks in error. The current system is failing our young people.”
Another teacher was bemused about the shortage of specialists in schools to help pupils with mental health issues. She said: “Faced with large classes and heavy teaching loads, teachers are unable to respond adequately … as a consequence, these pupils’ school experience is often unsettled and unhappy.”
“Teachers are not encouraged in this area. They are not provided support or time. They make flippant remarks in error. The current system is failing our young people.” Anonymous teacher
The survey has fuelled demands for a national training programme for schools and specialist counselling services in every secondary across Scotland.
SAMH surveyed just over 3,300 school staff and found that 66 per cent of teachers felt that they lacked the necessary training in mental health to do their jobs properly, while 12 per cent said that they had received enough training on issues such as self-harming and eating disorders.
However, only one per cent of teachers said that mental health was covered in detail as part of their teacher training, and 63 per cent said that mental health was not covered at all.
SAMH chief executive Billy Watson said that the high response and the “heartfelt feedback” showed that the improvement of mental health training was “clearly an issue [school staff] feel passionate about”.
“Faced with large classes and heavy teaching loads, teachers are unable to respond adequately … as a consequence, these pupils’ school experience is often unsettled and unhappy.” Anoymous teacher
Meanwhile, SAMH is calling for a “whole-school approach” to mental health after it surveyed other school staff members – including classroom assistants and catering and janitorial staff – and found that more than two thirds had never completed any mental health training.
Watson said: “With three children in every class experiencing a mental health problem by the time they’re 16, teachers and school staff should feel confident to spot the signs and be equipped to help.”
Watson added that teachers were promised in 2005 by the then Scottish Executive to have a programme to train teachers in mental health, however, “there is still no comprehensive programme in place”.
Watson added: “SAMH is calling for a consistent approach to mental health in Scotland’s schools, which should include school-based counselling and mental health training for all staff.”
“With three children in every class experiencing a mental health problem by the time they’re 16, teachers and school staff should feel confident to spot the signs and be equipped to help.” Billy Watson
SAMH wants a staff training programme to be in place by 2018 at the cost of £4.4m and counselling services to be in place in all secondary schools by 2020. The association notes that counselling services have been in place in Northern Ireland and Wales for a decade.
Scottish Labour inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “Scottish Labour has been warning about the growing mental health crisis in our schools for over a year, as have many others including the Scottish Youth Parliament – but the responses from the SNP government, and Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt, have been breathtakingly complacent.
“Having finally admitted in March the need to review Scotland’s broken child and adolescent mental health service, which has rejected 17,000 young people from treatment in the last three years, Nicola Sturgeon revealed this week at First Minister’s Questions that the review hasn’t even started.
“Teachers are already overworked and undervalued by this government; now we know they feel they don’t have the training to support pupils with mental health concerns.”
“Teachers are already overworked and undervalued by this government; now we know they feel they don’t have the training to support pupils with mental health concerns.” Monica Lennon
Maureen Watt, Scottish Government mental health minister, acknowledges the importance of giving every pupil having “access to emotional and mental wellbeing support in school”.
In March, the Scottish Government announced a new mental health strategy which includes “steps to improve delivery of child and adolescent mental health services”.
But Watt has added that it is up to both councils and schools to decide on how to support and develop children’s mental health, “on the basis of local circumstances and needs”.
Watt said that some schools might provide school-based counselling, but other pupils “will be supported by pastoral care staff [who will] liaise with the educational, psychological services, family and health services for specialist support when required”.
Picture courtesy of Alachua County
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