Developing the Agenda for Change in School Mental Health – Malta National Conference 2024

Developing the Agenda for Change in School Mental Health - Malta National Conference 2024 cover image

The “School Mental Health: Developing the Agenda for Change” conference held on Friday, 31st May 2024, at Dar il-Hanin Samaritan in Santa Venera, Malta, was a remarkable follow-up to the initial successful event in 2023. This year’s conference delved deeper into the realities of school mental health both in Malta and internationally, offering a unique platform for over 80 participants to engage with key change-makers and shape this vital agenda. It was also attended by Dr Denis Vella Baldacchino, Commissioner for Mental Health who offered his interest and support in these initiatives. 

In the welcome speech by Dr Kenneth Vella, Head of School at Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School, Dr. Vella highlighted the importance of mental health in today’s society, especially after the pandemic, and referred to the different conferences which were organised by Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School Paola in recent years in relation to mental wellbeing.

Key Highlights

  1. Latest Research and Strategies:

Attendees had the opportunity to understand the latest research and thinking about mental health in schools. The conference highlighted key strategies proven to drive improvements in this critical area. This segment was particularly enlightening, providing attendees with actionable insights to implement in their own schools.

  1. Maltese Policies and Initiatives:

A significant focus was placed on the national policies and initiatives of Malta. Delegates gained a deeper awareness of these frameworks and learned how they and their schools could benefit from these policies. This knowledge is crucial for educators and administrators aiming to align their practices with national standards and take advantage of available resources.

  1. Professional Networking:

The conference facilitated extensive networking opportunities. Participants could connect with colleagues, share experiences, and discover evidence-based approaches to mental health support in schools. These interactions are invaluable for building a supportive professional community and fostering collaborative efforts to improve school mental health.

  1. Certification:

Attendees left the conference with a certificate of attendance, recognising their commitment to enhancing mental health in educational settings. We also presented certificates to delegates who had recently completed one of the school mental health qualifications during the year. 

Featured Speakers

The event featured notable speakers who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience:

  • Ms Ritianne Borg Saliba: Director General within the Ministry for Education, Sports, Youth, Research and Innovation. She referred to the National Education Strategy which was recently launched where emphasis on wellbeing is put. She stressed the importance of the vital need to invest in the educational staff to promote mental well-being within our students. For this reason, one of the main aims of the Maltese National Education Strategy is to invest in the wellbeing for all those in education. Only in this way, would the academic side of education impact the student since it works in tandem with the student’s wellbeing.
  • Dr. Gabriel Ellul: A psychiatrist with a special interest in child development, Dr. Ellul offered a deep dive into the psychological aspects of student wellbeing. His expertise added a critical dimension to understanding and addressing mental health issues in schools. He also discussed the educators’ role in child mental health. The importance of staff collaboration with parents is vital for the child’s mental wellbeing. Dr Ellul highlighted effective practices for supporting students.
  • Dean Johnstone: Founder and CEO of Minds Ahead, Dean Johnstone shared his insights on driving systemic changes in school mental health as well as the key policies and strategies in relation to mental health in the English education system. He discussed the importance of leadership and innovative approaches to drive change in this key area. 

Collaboration and Recognition

This conference was the second national partnership event with the award-winning social enterprise, Minds Ahead, and Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School Paola. The collaboration underscored the importance of joint efforts in addressing school mental health. Additionally, attendees learned about Malta’s recognised school mental health professional qualifications from the Royal Society for Public Health and Leeds Beckett University, adding further credibility and recognition to the professional development of educators in this field.

The “School Mental Health: Developing the Agenda for Change” conference 2024 was a pivotal event that brought together educators, policymakers, and mental health professionals. It fostered a deeper understanding of school mental health issues, promoted national and international collaboration, and equipped attendees with the tools and knowledge needed to drive positive change in their schools. The conference not only continued the momentum from the previous year but also set the stage for future advancements in school mental health.

Discover Minds Ahead's initiatives to support mental health in schools