Schools and instructors who have not received proper training are struggling to provide mental health help to students.
Investment in schools and teachers, according to a group of education and health experts writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, is urgently needed to help them in promoting good mental health and responding to difficulties.
Only a quarter of children with mental disorders receive help from mental health specialists, despite the fact that rates of mental disease among children have soared by 50% in just three years.
Teachers are the most common source of help for such children, according to data from the Office of National Statistics. Teachers, like other frontline healthcare workers, have a disproportionate number of students who suffer from mental illness.
Teachers, together with general practitioners (GPs) and social workers, make up “tier 1” of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), and are deemed capable of providing general guidance and treatment for less serious issues, as well as referring to more specialized services.
Because specialised resources are harder to come by, teachers end up providing vital support for students throughout the spectrum of need, according to the authors.
Chloe Lowry, the study’s principal author and a former teacher at University College London’s Institute of Education, stated, “The fact that teachers are not appropriately equipped for these positions is both astounding and worrying.
Given the critical role that schools and teachers play in promoting children’s long-term health and well-being, as well as responding to difficulties, health-care financial support to equip this often-overlooked health workforce might be transformative.”
Only one teacher per school is now funded for mental health awareness training by the government. According to government research, only 40% of classroom teachers in England feel prepared to teach children with mental health issues in their class, and only 32% know how to help students seek specialized mental health treatment outside of school.
“Despite this backdrop of unprecedented need, inadequate training, and a workforce eager to learn,” said another of the authors, Dame Alison Peacock, CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, “training in promoting children’s healthy development was omitted in the final stages of the recent teacher training reforms in England, in favor of a narrow focus on improving academic attainment.”
GCSE outcomes are greater for children with stronger social and emotional development, regardless of socioeconomic position, whereas those with mental health issues are more likely to perform poorly. Individual instructors’ influence on students’ mental health is as significant as their influence on academic exam scores, according to research.
The authors go on to make recommendations, such as including comprehensive training in child development, health, and well-being into teacher training courses and making it available to all current teachers for free.
They also urge that schools be invested in so that they may serve as hubs for children’s services, ranging from social workers to social prescribing link workers.
“We provide these ideas to establish a healthier education system,” Dame Alison continued, “changing vicious loops of low pupil and teacher well-being into virtuous circles that improve children’s long-term physical, emotional, educational, and economic outcomes.”