School is hard enough without effective mental health support - Blair Haldane

Schools play an important role in promoting and supporting the positive mental health and wellbeing of their community. They impact everyone.

Hillpark Secondary School in South Glasgow has 1063 students enrolled. The school has an extremely nurturing ethos and the mental health and wellbeing of our pupils, families, and staff members is paramount.

As Deputy Head Teacher, I and the rest of the Senior Management Team are very much aware of the mental health issues that affect our community. With a war in Europe, the impact of social media, a cost-of-living crisis, and a global pandemic, mental health support has never been more important.

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Effort has always been made to offer as much support as we can – from nurture groups, school counsellors, Wellbeing Ambassadors, and a fantastic Pastoral Care Team.

Blair Haldane, Deputy Head at Hillpark Secondary in GlasgowBlair Haldane, Deputy Head at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow
Blair Haldane, Deputy Head at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow

As someone who is extremely passionate about both mental health and leadership, in October, I participated in Place2Be’s 12-week Senior Mental Health Leads Training. The programme is designed to support Senior Mental Health Leads at primary and high schools identify school priorities and develop strategic approaches to meet these needs.

The training was delivered by qualified clinicians and was made up of online and group sessions and consultations, which involved professional reading and reflections. From the reading materials, I’ve been able to make adaptations to my very own practice and have re-evaluated the school’s whole approach to mental health and wellbeing.

As a result, the school has established a new committee and new plans are in place to run a mental health audit across the school, with the aim of giving the Senior Leadership team a clearer perspective of the different challenges that our young people, families, and staff members face.

From here, we will take a pro-active approach by developing an online ‘well-being hub’ designed for the school community, which will provide mental health resources, videos, useful contacts and coping strategies. We will also introduce year group mental health afternoons, and have external speakers come in to address the different areas of concern that are flagged in the audit.

Creating an ethos in our school where both pupils and staff feel happy to be here has been a big success for us. Only by staying on top of their mental health can both pupils and staff maximise their output.

Teaching is a demanding and stressful job at times and so knowing methods to cope with this will enable staff to feel happier in their own life and transfer this positivity across to pupils.

For pupils, school is hard enough with exams and the feeling of having to conform within certain parameters. If we can support pupils with their mental health and give them strategies to help them cope, they will be more likely to achieve, attain and build resilience going forward.

For more information on Place2Be’s CPD-certified Senior Mental Health Leads training programme, visit Place2Be’s website.

Blair Haldane, Deputy Head at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow

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