What is a whole school approach to mental health?

What is a whole school approach to mental health?

Taking a Whole School Approach involves looking through a new lens, considering the effect of every aspect of school or college life on mental health and wellbeing – from policies to curriculum to the physical environment. 

Instead of seeing efforts to promote wellbeing and mental health as an add on, a Whole School Approach threads this commitment through everything schools and colleges do. 

What does a whole school approach to mental health look like in practice?

In July 2022, a report from the Children’s Commissioner described the key elements of a Whole School Approach as follows: 

  1. Curriculum teaching and learning to promote resilience and to support social and emotional learning 
  2. Enabling student voice to influence decisions
  3. Staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of students
  4. Identifying need and monitoring impact of interventions
  5. Working with parents and carers
  6. Targeted support and appropriate referral
  7. An ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity

 

These should be underpinned by ‘Leadership and management that supports and champions efforts to promote emotional health and wellbeing’. The graphic below gives a more visual indication of how this works:

Promoting a whole school approach to mental health
Source: Public Health England (2021)

Why is student voice key to the whole school approach?

A Whole School Approach has to involve the whole school or college. It is striking in the list above that ‘enabling student voice to influence decisions’ is the second point. This is crucial. While we are reviewing policies, or training teams, or setting up systems for identifying needs or targeting support, we must not forget to keep the voice of children and young people at the centre of this process. They may not be experts on school procedures, but they are the experts on their own experiences, are closest to the issues they face and have important insights to share. Furthermore, the very act of listening to and respecting the views of children and young people is itself a way to promote their wellbeing.  

The resources in the School Mental Health Hub contain guidance and ideas for introducing some easy to implement aspects of a Whole School Approach to mental health.

VIEW RESOURCE HUB

References

Children’s Commissioner (2022) ‘A Head Start: Early support for children’s mental health’ [Online], Available from: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/cc-a-head-start-early-support-for-childrens-mental-health.pdf

Public Health England (2021) ‘Promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing: A whole school or college approach’, [online] Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1020249/Promoting_children_and_young_people_s_mental_health_and_wellbeing.pdf