A survey by a leading mental health charity has revealed major concerns among teachers in Scotland over the training they have received to cope with the demands of pupils with mental health issues.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) announced the findings of a major new study - 'Going To Be...Well-Trained' and are calling on the Scottish Government to mark the Year of Young People by creating a programme to train all school staff in mental health.
The survey of over 3,000 school staff respondents in Scotland found that more than two-thirds of teachers do not feel they have received sufficient training in mental health to allow them to carry out their role properly, and that only a third of school staff say their school has an effective way of responding to pupils experiencing mental health problems.
SAMH’s Going To Be campaign is drawing attention to the three children in every classroom who experience a mental health problem, but who too often struggle to get the help they need. The charity would like to see all school staff trained in mental health as part of a whole-school approach, and the survey was carried out to find out more about the experiences of school staff in this area.
Billy Watson, Chief Executive of SAMH said: “Although health and wellbeing is a core area of the Curriculum for Excellence, this survey shows clearly that unlike almost all other subject areas teachers have had insufficient or no training on mental health to allow them to do their job.
“Yet our mental health impacts on everything we do. Improving the self-esteem, resilience and wellbeing of all our young people must be a priority if we want them to learn.
“While we know that work on mental health training is underway as part of the Mental Health Strategy, we think more needs to be done – at a quicker pace, and on a national level.
“The situation is urgent and school staff and pupils can’t wait any longer. It’s got to change. We want the Scottish Government to commit to establishing a national programme of mental health training that is consistent to meet the needs of school staff.”
The report was launched at Wallace High School in Stirling, where mental health has been a priority issue for the last two years.
Mr Scott Pennock, Head Teacher at Wallace High School said: “Wallace High has been incredibly proud to develop pupil and staff mental and emotional wellbeing over the last session. This has included working with See Me to train a number of staff as Scottish Mental Health First Aiders; and utilising Scottish Attainment Challenge funding and dedicated resources to sustain a staff team that has adequate training to support with personalised issues in school day-to-day.
“Training staff has been key to ensuring that we have a staff group with the confidence and skills to support young people with mental health issues – essentially providing a front-line resource. It is vital, in our experience, in the modern world, to create a culture where young people feel they can talk about mental health, and where staff have the necessary training to provide support.”
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “Every child and young person should have access to emotional and mental well-being support in school. To ensure this we’ve started a national review of Personal and Social Education - including consideration of the role of guidance and counselling in local authority schools. We’ve also provided £95,000 to establish a Youth Commission on Mental Health Services from Young Scot and SAMH, empowering young people to identify issues important to them and recommend improvements.
“Education authorities and all those working in our schools have a responsibility to support and develop the mental wellbeing of pupils, with decisions on how to provide that support taken on the basis of local circumstances and needs. Some will provide access to school based counselling. Others will be supported by pastoral care staff and liaise with the Educational Psychological Services, family and health services for specialist support when required.”