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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 16-Feb-15 12:40:23

Guest post: 'The odd assembly isn't enough - teachers must talk about mental health every day'

Charlotte Walker first showed signs of bipolar disorder at 11, but wasn't diagnosed until adulthood. This Children's Mental Health Week, she writes that schools must do more to raise awareness of mental health issues, so children don't suffer in silence as she did.

Charlotte Walker

Purple Persuasion

Posted on: Mon 16-Feb-15 12:40:23


Lead photo

'Stigmatising words like "psycho" or "schizo" need to be challenged.'

Mental health support for under-18s is in the spotlight. A shocking lack of beds for young people and cuts to child and adolescent services have led the Labour Party to describe the current situation as a "scandal of neglect"; it is pledging to prioritise child mental health, including training teachers to spot the warning signs.

Had this been the case when I was a child, my bipolar disorder may have been recognised. I developed my first symptoms of bipolar at 11, my first depression at 12 and first suicidal thoughts at 13 - yet I wasn't diagnosed until adulthood. That sounds shocking, but it's not uncommon. The Office for National Statistics found that approximately one in ten young people will have some form of mental health disorder - around three pupils in every class - while a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found 50% of adults with a mental illness experienced initial symptoms by the age of 14.

This is why we must get mental health on the agenda in secondary schools.

Talking to my teenage son reveals the worrying lack of education around mental health. Ask him what he's been taught and he's pretty scathing. He says that it rarely gets a mention, and when it does, there's too much emphasis on problems like exam stress. Having received treatment for anxiety and depression in Year 12, he's pretty clued up on the subject and gets frustrated, knowing that adolescence is when people can start to develop much more complex conditions. "They mentioned Stephen Fry, but they didn't even say what bipolar was. There must've been kids sitting in that hall who needed to hear about the more serious stuff," he told me, and he's right.

I developed my first symptoms of bipolar at 11, my first depression at 12 and first suicidal thoughts at 13 - yet I wasn't diagnosed until adulthood.

Eating disorders are especially prevalent in the upper years of secondary school; a recent study in the British Medical Journal found that ages 15-19 is the most common time to develop anorexia or bulimia. Self-harm, often a coping strategy that points to other underlying problems, is also common. Selfharm UK suggest that around 13% of those aged 11-16 will deliberately harm themselves at some point.

Less common problems can also show up in adolescence, anxiety conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic attacks. In every school there will be a few, probably undiagnosed, cases of bipolar disorder or psychosis. And sadly, around 600 15-24 year-olds take their own lives every year – enough to fill a small secondary school.

Teachers must get to grips with the fact that some of their pupils will already have diagnosable problems such as clinical anxiety and depression. Discussing mental health issues may mean staff have to venture out their comfort zones, and nobody can blame them for being reluctant or anxious when asked to talk about it - as a society we're only just becoming comfortable talking about depression, never mind suicide or self-harm. It's tempting to wheel out celebrities. But starting a conversation about Stephen Fry without explaining what bipolar is, or bringing up YouTuber Zoella but not discussing how to help with a panic attack, means a wasted opportunity.

Learning about mental health is learning for life. As young people move into adulthood it's exciting to start work or university, leave home or have a first serious relationship - but major life changes can also be stressful, and can lead to anxiety or depression. This phase of life is also the most likely time for bipolar or psychosis to appear. We need to equip our children with knowledge about these conditions early, so that they're able to spot potential problems and seek help before they escalate.

The best way to support kids is to support teachers, by improving their knowledge of conditions and treatments and giving them confidence to talk about mental health. As a Mental Health First Aid instructor, I work with teachers to achieve this, giving participants with no prior knowledge the skills to support others in mental distress.

Supporting young people's mental health cannot be done via the odd PHSE lesson or a one-off assembly on World Mental Health day. It's about creating an environment in which staff have the confidence to talk about mental health every day. Stigmatising words like "psycho" or "schizo" need to be challenged, as do phrases like, "she's so bipolar" or "OCD, much?" It's about a cultural change, not just offering support or spotting symptoms, and the best place to begin a society-wide shift in attitudes is in schools.

By Charlotte Walker

Twitter: @BipolarBlogger

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 13:41:14

Don't be ridiculous, exactly when are teachers supposed to find the time to talk about this, even if they ever found the time to train up in it enough to be competent to talk about it. Or do you just think mental health discussion is another thing to throw at teachers to stick into their lesson plans along with all the other things we are supposed to include every day, whether we know anything about it or not, such as black history, loan sharks, gender stereotypes, the manufacturing industry, how to be happy, homophobic bullying, democracy, the legal system, etc etc etc, all of which, and more are already supposed to be included in all lessons every day, goodness knows when teachers are supposed to teach their actual subject.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 13:46:00

I just wrote a long response along the lines that teachers are supposed to teach their own subjects, and this long list of everything else that has to be included every day, developmental sexuality, black history, origins of gender stereo types, the youth justice system, loan sharks, democratic systems, the manufacturing industry, employability, homophobic bullying, inclusion, etc etc etc is just stupid.

We know our subjects.

What the hell do I know about how to finance a car, or diagnosing mental illnesses,

Stop dumping all this on me to "teach" - I can't, I have my SUBJECT to teach.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 13:54:17

The best way to support kids is to support teachers

I disagree. The best way to support 'kids', is to support parents, surely?

As a Mental Health First Aid instructor, I work with teachers to achieve this, giving participants with no prior knowledge the skills to support others in mental distress.

So, is this education and support available to parents and parents who tutor home educated children?

26Point2Miles Mon 16-Feb-15 14:14:48

I read this and 'support the Labour Party, they are going to make these changes we need'

Bugger off with the politics please!

26Point2Miles Mon 16-Feb-15 14:15:18

*as not and!

BossWitch Mon 16-Feb-15 14:24:22

We, as a profession, cannot accept any more responsibility for the raising of other people's kids. Educate parents about mental health and find the money to increase spending in the nhs to deal with it. It is a health issue, it should be dealt with by the health service. Not in education. It's not that I don't care about my students' mental health. I do; I am watchful and I have been involved in support and intervention for a range of mental health problems. I have taught a student who had to be sectioned at 17 due to multiple suicide attempts. But my -'talking about mental health issues everyday' would have been fuck all use to her and impossible to accommodate in my schedule without the removal of something else - either other aspects of pastoral care or teaching my subject.

fluffywhitekittens Mon 16-Feb-15 14:28:44

Some interesting points in this article

BossWitch Mon 16-Feb-15 14:52:51

Just read that article fluffy linked. Abso-fucking-lutely.

noblegiraffe Mon 16-Feb-15 14:56:59

I'm a teacher. I teach kids with mental health problems. Ones who are self-harming, ones suffering from panic attacks, anxiety, eating disorders, school refusal, mental burnout.

I teach in a state comp. The amount of training I've had to deal with these issues is zero. Any time I talk to these kids I'm acutely aware that I could actually make them worse.

So please don't tell me to talk to kids about mental health. I've got enough on my plate.

If you want to train me so that I know how to respond appropriately to a panic attack or a kid who self-harms, that would be appreciated.

OTheHugeManatee Mon 16-Feb-15 16:47:56

I think if governments of all colours could bring themselves to stop thinking about school as a delivery mechanism for the preferred social engineering du jour and concentrate on letting teachers teach, y'know, subjects, our education system would be in a far better state.

EvilTwins Mon 16-Feb-15 17:00:58

The secret teacher article is very astute. I've been in this career for 18 years. It's amazing kids pass any GCSEs at all given how much time per lesson is meant to go on literacy, numeracy, making SMSC explicit, teaching British values etc etc. I teach Drama FFS. And as a PP has said. No training for dealing with mental health issues. How am I to know if my involvement is beneficial? What if I make things worse? One of my students attempted suicide last year. None of us saw it coming. Yr 11s are stressed about the pressure of exams. I simply do not have the knowledge to help them. Why are teachers supposed to replace parents?

ChampagneAndCrisps Mon 16-Feb-15 17:13:35

There's a difference between Mental Wellbeing - and Mental Illness - and I think the way this original post has been written confuses the two.

I can understand that teachers need to be aware of issues around their teenage pupils mental wellbeing, but it's not a teachers role to pick up on actual early psychiatric illness. Anything they could teach about such illness would be a broad overview.

There's no mention of the conditions more likely to affect teenagers - Tourette's syndrome, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and ADHD. It's a narrow view of your own experience.

If a child actually does have early signs of Psychiatric illness surely it is up to the parents to seek help from the Medical Professionals and not from teachers.

I am all for a more open approach about these issues, but teenagers go through many changes and I would worry that there is a risk of some of them thinking they have a Psychiatric illness having been taught about it by someone who doesn't really know about it.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 17:15:43

The whole idea is just bonkers. Get a grip, op.

duplodon Mon 16-Feb-15 17:32:36

Very pleasant attitudes here. You teach people, not subjects - that's a rather inconvenient fact for some teachers, but it's a fact, nonetheless. There are also obviously subject areas where it is going to be easier to approach these issues. Don't your schools also have Tutorials, tutor groups etc? The attitudes are very telling... What if I teach someone x and y happens.. Fear for self, fear of causing harm. It's a type of stigma and secrecy around something that's actually massively common. If you have kids with mh issues in class, it's not in likely you'll see signs of stress, poor conduct, withdrawal etc. Tell the school nurse if you must but it's a bit unfortunate that the first concern here is for how this impacts on teacher wellbeing.

EvilTwins Mon 16-Feb-15 17:45:49

duplodon I am a teacher. That is my profession. Why do I also have to be a self-sacrificing martyr? Why should my own wellbeing come second place? My students are very important to me, but I am not their mother. They are not my top priority - my own children are far more important to me.

I have absolutely no training in mental health issues, and am therefore just as likely to cause harm. My students know I have an open door - if they want to talk to me, they can, and they do. But my "action" is to pass it on, not to attempt to deal with it myself.

I'm sorry if you think that makes me crap at my job hmm

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 18:00:17

no, duplon, it is sheer bloody overload.

We are teachers, our aim is to impart academic knowledge of our subject to younger people, if they want it.

Instead, we are expected to take responsibility for the following.

Have our pupils got out of bed at a reasonabale time? if not, what have we done about it? Have they had breakfast, if not, what have we done about it? Did they arrive at school in time, if not, what have we done about it? Are they wearing the correct uniform ,do they have the correct equipment, did the y do their homework, do they have a place to do their homework, do they have internet access, do they have nits, do they have free school meals, have they filled in their travel form, have we correctly recorded their ethnic origin, are they watching inappropriately rated films at home, what age did they walk, what age did they talk, What is their standard of maths, what are their targets in maths, how are we including their maths targets into every single lesson, ( I am not a maths teacher) What are their standards in literacy, what are their targets in literacy, are we including their literacy targets in every single lesson? ( I am not an English teacher) What is their predicted grade, what is their aspirational grade, what is their working grade, what is their target grade, have we explained how we are closing the gap between these 4 grades in every single lesson, what employability are we incorporating into lessons, ( actually, this is supposed to be about once every half an hour) what are we doing to affirm their ethnic identity ( again, once every half an hour) what are their social targets, How many British values have we incorporated into each half day of teaching, for this week, have they self assessed themselves yet today ( has to happen every day), have they peer assessed each other yet today, ( has to happen every day) have we raised their awareness of homosexuality yet today, have we reitterated the importance of condoms yet today, have we reminded them of the directions to the sexual health clinic, what have we done today to address self confidence issues and low self esteem, are we publically following the bulllying policy, have we incorporated he ICT policy into the lesson, have the students filled in their feedback forms, must happen at least once a week, how do we show we are responding to student voice, have we ensured each student has 3 smart targets for our subject, and have we timetabled in the review, are we working on conflict resolution in the class, have we informed all the parents of the latest targets, have we phoned the parents of everyone who had arrived late, or has not done their homework, have we highlighted the moral superiority of democrasy, have we rearranged our lessons so the muslim students can leave to pray,are we providing extra support to the non english speakers, the asd students ( now in about very class I know) , the ADHD students, the dopeheads, the dyslexics, etc etc etc what are we doing differently for the students on the MAGOT list, are we differentiating for the other three (minimum) catagories of students, have we got our learning objectives on the board, and have we worded them correctly, ( the policy on wording learning objectives changes constantly, so what was acceptable last month may well be different this month) Have we clearly differentiated between the aim, the outcome and the objective, have we included activities for kinesthetic, visual and aural learners ( even thought this has been shown to be a myth)

I could go on and on and on......

All this has to be incorporated into each SUBJECT. and mostly into each lesson. This is not what I became a teacher for, I am not responsible for what bloody time a bloody student has breakfast!!!

Pshe is also a SUBJECT with a hugely overloaded curriculum.

This stupid idea to just throw yet more work and responsibility at teachers is just going to be the straw that breaks the camels back in many cases.

We are not doctors, we are not social workers, we are not psychiatrists the whole premise is ignorant in the extreme.

Yo wouldn't go and see your GP to complain about not understanding your geography coursework would you?

No, because it would not be his/her problem, responsibility or area of expertise, and he has other things to do with his time.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 18:03:09

duplon, we do not in fact deal with people, or with subjects, we deal with paperwork, and targets, and administration, and the format of the lesson plan, and the scheme of work, and the bloody objectives.

thatsn0tmyname Mon 16-Feb-15 18:08:45

I teach science in a state comp and I care about every one of my students. I am not a doctor and have had no medical training. I cannot diagnose mental illness but I know when something isn't right. I can, and do, flag up concerns when they arise. In the hour that I spend teaching my students in a typical week I cannot make a big difference to their personal lives. Students can have up to 18 teachers on their timetables so we cannot spot everything and we cannot solve all of societies ills. That really needs to start at home. However, I would like some more training on spotting the signs. And if it requires an inset day or two, let's not start another discussion about what a ballache they are and "why aren't they happening in the summer" blah blah.

LizzieVereker Mon 16-Feb-15 18:19:50

No no no no no. I am not a nurse, a social worker or a mental health professional, I am a teacher of an academic subject.

I do care a great deal about the well being of my students, and I am acutely aware that some of them suffer from mental health problems. I am also acutely aware that I am not remotely qualified to deal with these problems, which is why I firmly believe that the extent of my involvement should be compassion, and referring the student to the right external agency if necessary. I will go so far as to check that that they are receiving care, but that is all.

To suggest that I should be more involved in the diagnosis or treatment of these conditions through discussion is frankly irresponsible, and making teachers responsible risks the further erosion of professional mental health services for young people. Sending me on a short course is not going to replace proper therapy or care. Please, please fight for professional mental health services for young people, instead of trying to wedge it into school.

I don't believe that mental health issues should be swept under the carpet, but anyone who thinks that teachers have time to stop and discuss it, in an academic lesson, in our target driven culture, is very sadly mistaken.

I am astounded by the naivety and irresponsibility in the OP.

noblegiraffe Mon 16-Feb-15 18:29:47

fear of causing harm

Of course I've got fear of causing harm. Do you really want me tinkering with young minds with amateur tools? I asked a kid with severe anxiety why he was late to my lesson (first lesson, I didn't know who he was). He then refused to come to my lesson for the next few weeks. These kids are vulnerable and the last thing they need is me, with my degree in maths and no training in mental health, attempting to get them to spot the signs of bipolar disorder.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 18:33:01

Fear for self, fear of causing harm. It's a type of stigma and secrecy around something that's actually massively common.

I don't see that as stigma or secrecy, I see that as a responsible approach.

When people are coached on the mn mh board, that posters are not MHC professionals, it is not to create stigma or secrecy, it is to ensure those with mh problems seek proper advice, from qualified individuals and that those advising, remain aware of their limited experience and the potential consequences of their advice. Not stigma, not secrecy but an appropriately responsible approach.

Having read all of the teachers responses here, I stand by my initial post:

The "best way to support kids", is to support parents, surely?

I am also still interested in knowing whether the education in skills and support described in the op, is available to parents and to parents who tutor home educated children. (?)

duplodon Mon 16-Feb-15 18:55:59

Honestly, mh has been done a huge disservice by the idea that a foot out of place and someone's mind will cave in. Mostly people need compassion, recognition as a human being, kindness... And if it's genuinely beyond that, you have a school nurse.

Hijk, the problem in everything you posted is not that considering wellbeing would be the final straw, it is that all of these things treat young people and you as their teachers as products/statistics instead of human beings and that is a root and cause of everything that's wrong with the world today: reductionist, mechanistic, inhumane. If you could all relate as humans together it would be preferential for everyone.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 18:57:41

duplon, I am sure you are right about that.

howtodrainyourflagon Mon 16-Feb-15 19:10:31

I wish the labour party would sod off from doing stickies on active conversations. And the other parties too, for balance. Someone in labour party head office is thinking "oh gosh we need to do something to get votes from the wimminz now we have universal suffrage and all that. I guess they're too busy thinking about kittenz and cupcakez to notice we have sod all to say about the economy... quick we need some gimmicks: every teacher has mention mental health every day cos that's free, innit, and give dads better paid paternity leave cos its only a few weeks not like maternity leave".


morethanpotatoprints Mon 16-Feb-15 19:22:13

Why have we become a nation of parental responsibility dodgers?
it is a parents responsibility to do this not the schools.
Its ridiculous how many times we read, "the school should teach this" about all sorts of subjects.
There won't be any time left for the curriculum soon and then we'll hear "the school should be teaching academic subjects".

SoonToBeSix Mon 16-Feb-15 19:25:59

I disagree , bipolar is not something that should be diagnosed in children,adulthood is the appropriate time.

noblegiraffe Mon 16-Feb-15 19:44:34

Mostly people need compassion, recognition as a human being, kindness...

Yes, I agree. However the OP is suggesting that we give them lessons on bipolar disorder, which is different.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 16-Feb-15 20:02:22

The best place to begin a society wide shift in attitudes is in schools

No it bloody buggering isn't. It's in the NHS. The underfunded, overstretched NHS where the model of community mental health care is simply not working. One of my best friends has been in an acute crisis for the past three years and apart from meds (which are keeping him alive) and the community crisis team (excellent but they are there to also keep people alive and then pass them on to regular services) his care has been non-existent.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the meds and the crisis support, but for him to get better he needs tailored, intensive help which he's not getting.

Schools dicking around with the odd buzz word here and there wouldn't have 'caught' him, or 'saved' him when he was at school, and it won't save him now.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 20:04:36

Honestly, mh has been done a huge disservice by the idea that a foot out of place and someone's mind will cave in. Mostly people need compassion, recognition as a human being, kindness

If someone cannot give this naturally, it is just not in them. It can't be taught!

This brings to my mind, the utter fucking idiot pe teacher, who forced my dd to run 800 metres, after the ligaments in her knee failed.

He either could not tell the difference between crocodile tears and tears borne put of extreme pain - or he did not care.

My dd had never been in any trouble at school. Top set pupil, didn't lie, didn't evade lessons, yet he subjected her to enduring incredible pain and potential lifelong damage.

Fortunately, a teacher with 'compassion and kindness' rescued her but not before she'd hobbled and cried over halfway through, with a knee cap put of place!

This is a bloody pe teacher! Who should have a reasonable understanding of sports related injuries, because it is related to his subject.

Can you imagine the damage someone like that could do

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 20:06:42 a sensitive mind?

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 16-Feb-15 20:08:55

My dd had never been in any trouble at school. Top set pupil, didn't lie, didn't evade lessons, yet he subjected her to enduring incredible pain and potential lifelong damage. ...meaning he really had no reason to disbelieve her.

mrs2cats Mon 16-Feb-15 20:20:46

Really, it's up to parents. Even if a teacher suspected something wasn't quite right a school surely can't do anything without parental consent.

I remember many years ago a doctor suggesting to my mother I see a psychologist as I was obviously unhappy and nobody knew what to do. My mother dragged me out saying that I wasn't mad. With hindsight I was depressed but my mother saw it as a failure on her part/my part, who knows.

There is a stigma attached to any mental health issues. Maybe teachers can help by talking about mental health in schools to help reduce the stigma attached but at the end of the day what happens about a child's mental health depends on the parents and the NHS.

Passmethecrisps Mon 16-Feb-15 20:37:21

As a teacher of PSHE (amongst other things, obviously) I can talk about mental wellbeing, resilience, self-esteem, knowing that it is ok to get help and where to get help from.

What I do not want to be doing is devising a list of mental illnesses and covering them week by week just to out the fear of God into the kids.

As a pastoral care teacher my day to day is working alongside children, their parents and the various hcp who support children. It is my job to keep subject teaching staff informed of how best to support pupils, I can provide time outs and strategies to assist and I can feed in to the therapist's work by having an overview of that child.

I can't see that more can be asked of me than that

Cherriesandapples Mon 16-Feb-15 20:57:05

My son has had anxiety issues which resulted in anxiety in school and negative behaviour in school. With the help of CAHMS and others and once the teacher had clear, appropriate strategies for dealing with issues then his issues literally disappeared. Teachers should have mental health training. CAHMS lady said that 1:4 children have mental health issues at some point. That is a lot of children. I think there would be a lot less conflict in the classroom if teachers were more skilled / trained in specific issues.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 21:25:05

cherriesandapples - is there no limit to the number of specific issues we are supposed to be skilled/trained in? Do people not realise that the most uptodate skills/training in many issues is often virtually worthless anyway?

Cherriesandapples Mon 16-Feb-15 21:33:38

I don't think a one size fits all approach is needed. But targeted training on specific issues would surely help? A whole school approAch to mental well being is surely a positive thing? In different areas different things may be required.

Passmethecrisps Mon 16-Feb-15 21:37:22

I can maybe see that working in a primary school more cherries.

There is nothing wrong with having a general ethos of support and trying to educate about certain words and negative uses. That would normally happen in PSHE anyway. Actually, I can't see many schools not talking openly about stress, anxiety, good mental wellbeing and such like.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 21:37:37

Cherries, no it wouldn't. you are being totally unrealistic.

Passmethecrisps Mon 16-Feb-15 21:37:47

And I meant to say that I hope your DS is well

BiscuitMillionaire Mon 16-Feb-15 21:55:25

Perhaps the best solution would be for each secondary school to have a student counsellor / welfare person on hand, as this obviously can't be the responsibility of teachers. That would require funding of course...

Cherriesandapples Mon 16-Feb-15 22:02:31

Thanks, he is well. I think evidence is growing about whole school occupational therapy interventions targeting co ordination handwriting problems etc.. And brief alcohol interventions in the work place so I can see specific interventions in schools working, with the support if specialist staff.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 22:40:19

here we go again with "specialist staff", there are really no such thing, just staff who have done one version of the latest training in whatever, which will contradict the other version, and contradict the last version, and contradict the next version. I've been the ASD "specialist staff member" in two separate schools with diametrically opposing views on the education and management of children with ASD, and i have never met two dyslexia specialists who agree on anything.

The public have this myth that there are somehow special magic wands that can perform miracles, and if only staff have the right skills, training or specialism, they will be able to wave them. the magic wands do not exist.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 22:41:10

evidence? don't get me started on what passes for "evidence" in an educational setting.......

WhistlingPot Mon 16-Feb-15 23:21:57

I'm saddened to read the reaction this OP has got, I really am.

I totally get that teachers are completely over-stretched and under-resourced, I really do. I come from a teaching family and have many friends and relatives who are teachers.

But I don't think that qualifies the teaching profession to turn their backs on the importance of their part in helping to break down stigma and taboo of mental illness, particularly in childhood, and working in conjunction with appropriate services towards better ways of achieving this. In exactly the same way as mental health awareness in the workplace, and across society, has increased over the years.

But yes, there does definitely need to be central support so that in doing so, it does not become the straw that brakes the camel's back, particularly for individuals on the educational front-line. That would be counter-productive.

Well done OP, I completely support where you are coming from with this.

hijk Mon 16-Feb-15 23:30:54

But it ISN'T our job! You can't just pluck more and more and more and more responsibilities out the air and pile them onto teachers. Teachers are walking out by the thousand as it is. And you reckon we are turning our backs on the importance of taking our part in breaking down the stigma of MH, it isn't our part to take!

you might as well ask why bus drivers aren't playing their part, or leisure centre managers, or pest control agents - because it isn't their job, not is it ours. It is nothing to do with us.

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 00:05:40

There are many sectors of society who see improving awareness of MH issues as part of their role, including bus drivers and railway staff, for example, in the same way as 1st Aid for physical issues, disability awareness etc has increased over the years.

I think the OP is being misunderstood. I feel she is asking teachers to model change that is needed in society in challenging a culture which stigmatises and perpetuates mental distress; not asking for detailed mental health issues to be added to the curriculum, or for teachers to be trained to diagnose mental illness. I don't think it has to be that onerous, but I can understand that is might feel that way, given the existing pressures.

And I'll repeat my earlier point that there does definitely need to be central support so that in doing so, it does not become the straw that brakes the camel's back, particularly for individuals on the educational front-line. That would be counter-productive.

The OP states she is already working with the teaching profession, it would be interesting to know more about this, and what they have, between them, found.

LizzieVereker Tue 17-Feb-15 00:09:03

I quite agree hijk. I find it extraordinary that in a school setting, where teachers are not considered qualified to give a student a paracetamol or a plaster, we are considered qualified to wax lyrical about mental health problems. I wouldn't dream of trying to explain how to reset a child's broken arm, why on earth would I try to explain how to recognise or alleviate depression?

I do think that teachers should show compassion and sensitivity to students with mental illnesses, of course I do, but it sounds like Labour would like us to do a bit more than that. When would we fit in "talking about it every day"? or "working in conjunction with other services"? What does that even mean?

When a student presents themselves as suffering with anxiety for example, I will acknowledge that they are unwell, refer them to the pastoral team or school nurse as appropriate, and I will check that they are receiving professional and parental support. I will take advice from parents or medical professionals on how to help them manage their anxiety in relation to my class. I will be accommodating and kind. I don't really see how I am qualified to do any more than that, nor do I see how a short training course would qualify me to do more. And a training course wouldn't free up any more time for me to do any more to help anyway.

AmantesSuntAmentes Tue 17-Feb-15 01:42:42

The article is absolute rubbish. The parents role has been completely overlooked and undermined. Equipping parents with extra skills and education would be far more beneficial to children, surely?

I far prefer the Green Party's intention to abolish extensive testing of children and introducing optional flexischooling. Those actions in themselves, would reduce stress upon pupils and teachers and see an overall improvement in the mental health of children, IMO.

Schools have become a ghastly machine which does not have the time or inclination to care for children as individuals. Having read the posts by teachers here, it is clear it is not they who are at fault.

saintlyjimjams Tue 17-Feb-15 07:21:08

The issue as I see it is that CAMHS is on its knees. My son needs an urgent referral to CAMHS. His teachers have recognised that & are doing what they can to speed that process up. As is his paediatricisb, as an I. We are getting nowhere - 18 week wait for urgent referrals here. And in the meantime he's dangerous.

Don't blame the teachers - there are no mental health services to refer to.

dansmum Tue 17-Feb-15 07:55:26

I genuinely care about my students. As a high school teacher I taught on average 150 children a day. But do you know who knows them better? Who knows when its just puberty, relationship strife , a hangover or genuine medical mental health issues ? The people they live with. When I had a concern I spoke to these people. Sometimes they did nothing. Sometimes we tried and because of poor child mental health provision no help was available. But am I responsible and qualified and equipped with access to services to help every child with emergent mhn? No. Am I happy to listen ? Yes. Am I happy to raise awareness? Yes. Am I happy to help a parent/carer to find a local service provider? Yes if there is one. But there are limits to what teachers can and should do. The parent needs to take the lead on this one.Really.

tranjohn12 Tue 17-Feb-15 08:10:20

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PlentyOfPubeGardens Tue 17-Feb-15 10:11:47

I did mental health first aid training a couple of years ago. It's a very good course (mine was 2 days) and I would recommend it to anyone who is given the chance.

It's not intended to replace NHS mental health services any more than general first aid courses are intended to replace paramedics and A&E. What it can do is give you the skills and confidence to provide initial help to someone who is experiencing a MH crisis or who comes to you in distress, while guiding them towards sources of help.

The idea that teachers must talk about MH every day is ridiculous. Teachers having the confidence to talk about MH in an everyday manner (i.e. outside the context of special lessons and assemblies) would be a much better aim.

rumbleinthrjungle Tue 17-Feb-15 10:18:07

Totally agree with Saintly. CAMHS is on its knees in this county, you could double the staff and they'd still be hugely over caseload. The threshold for referral has become ridiculously high totally negating early intervention.

Labour do this a lot. Promote everyone coming out of role, a job blur where everyone does everything to cover up the lack of the real necessary services being chronically understaffed and struggling, and it leaves unqualified people to do things they are not trained or qualified to do with highly vulnerable people, while their own core brief gets more and more dilute and neglected. Teachers teach. That's what they do. CAMHS already have this role, are trained, are brilliant at it when they have enough staff and funding to do it properly, just put the resources into the existing services.

BossWitch Tue 17-Feb-15 10:38:18

Plenty - your two daytraining course was no doubt great, but it can't come anywhere close to enabling you to make skilled interventions into mental health. Imagine turning up at the psychologist's office to be told your appointment is with the person with two days' training! I'm pretty sure you'd be wanting to see someone else. And what about everyone else on the staff? Do they all get two days? Or do they get a couple of hours of you training them on inset?

I have a first aid qualification that was two days training. I know a tiny bit more than most people without any training. The only reasons I feel confident taking action as a first aider are a) I am very unlikely to make things worse in the vast majority of incidents I am ever likely to encounter; b) in the event of a really serious problem anything I do is at best a stalling mechanism. CPR is very unlikely to save someone's life if the ambulance doesn't get to them very quickly indeed; c) there is legal protection for first aiders (a samaritans clause) which means that should any of my actions, taken in good faith, cause harm I cannot be held legally responsible.

The same cannot be said of intervention into mental health.

duplodon Tue 17-Feb-15 10:59:53

Of course it can! Apart from c, which I don't know about.

This is the whole problem with mh. This shying away, fearfulness, belief that a wrong word will be catastrophic.. these are all distorted beliefs that have the capacity to do FAR MORE HARM than they have the capacity to do good.

Plenty's course basically offers some guidance in first responding, the same way as a first aid course does for cardiac arrest. It's not a mental health intervention, any more than CPR is heart surgery.

The alternative is this terror of saying the wrong thing.. how does that look to someone in distress? If someone is intensely distressed and reaches out to you, and you shy away, what does that do? It reinforces every harmful belief they have about themselves.

Would you comfort someone in distress? Most people will say yes.
Would you comfort someone with mh issues? Many people will say no.

You know that they are actually the same thing? Mental illness is mental distress, it's just distress where the causes are not immediately observable by those around the person, where the distress is predominantly internal, related to private events, as it were. What do people think it is? What harm is it that people are fearful of doing?

So, I have a cousin with schizoaffective disorder, meaning he has very severe psychotic symptoms from time to time. Should I never speak to him at a family event in case... what? When he blanks or freezes mid conversation should I... run away screaming?

The vast majority of people that this sort of first aid refers to are not going to be even nearly as severe as my cousin in presentation, they will be people suffering from anxiety and depression, OCD, PTSD and others. No one is asking ANYONE to be able to do some sort of skilled psychological risk assessment. It's about being open, being present and doing what matters - which is just being there, being kind, listening and directing to appropriate help.

Plenty said it best:
"The idea that teachers must talk about MH every day is ridiculous. Teachers having the confidence to talk about MH in an everyday manner (i.e. outside the context of special lessons and assemblies) would be a much better aim."

PlentyOfPubeGardens Tue 17-Feb-15 11:07:31

I think the legal protection for first aiders is to protect them from being prosecuted for assault. I can't see anything in MHFA that would necessitate that.

Website here.

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 11:19:21

Would you feel differently if it could BossWitch? Because wrt your first two points, there really isn't much difference as far as MHFA is concerned. Courses like these can be very helpful when it comes to clarity over the roles and responsibilities under existing legislation. l'd also imagine many schools already have safeguarding policies if a child was presenting as suicidal?

Pubes, I didn't take the "every day" comment to mean anything

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 11:22:02

Posted too soon and will have to finish that sentence later.

duplodon Tue 17-Feb-15 11:29:44

The other thing is, if you work in schools and come across a child in crisis, no amount of funding of CAMHS or NHS or whatever will change what you do in THAT moment.

I work in a secondary school and we have had a number of students who have CAMHS intervention and some who have designated EBD profiles etc. While it's undoubtedly true that CAMHS would be better placed to support these students, when it all kicks off at 2pm on some random Tuesday, there isn't always a crisis team to hand and even if the service was all singing, all-dancing and could be summoned up for a child that was previously not known to their service with parental consent within 20-30 minutes to attend at school, there's 20-30 minutes there that someone is in intense, acute distress where it's helpful to know what to do and to avoid causing further harm to the person by acting as though they are crazy and shying away from them because of your own discomfort (which most of us WILL feel, it's conditioned in our culture).

Do you think the first time this ever happened, at which point we didn't even know one particular student was experiencing issues, that we automatically knew what to do and how to do it, there and then? How many school staff could or would? MHFA is there for THOSE times, which are by nature, unpredictable.

You can be trained in the basics in 8 hours to 2 days. You're not acting as a clinician, you just have some basic, basic understanding for this particular type of circumstance, which so far has happened to me three times in my work. It's similar to learning how to handle a disclosure. We hope never to need that knowledge, but it is so important.

I know there are too many initiatives. I know teachers are asked to be all things to all people. Yet if you had to ask me what would I personally value more in my work with young people, knowing how to support their literacy in Science subjects or learning manual handling or moderating AFL documents or knowing how to respond in a mental health crisis, I know that mental health responding would be really high up on my agenda.

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 11:36:17

Beautifully put duplodon.

And I don't feel the need now to finish my sentence as you basically covered it.


noblegiraffe Tue 17-Feb-15 12:19:35

Duplodon, I would love to have some training in how to respond appropriately to a child in a mental health crisis, or with mental health issues. That's not what teachers are objecting to in this thread.

We are objecting to being apparently charged with responsibility for children's mental health. That we should be teaching the kids about various mental health disorders and performing amateur diagnoses of things like bipolar disorder. That we should become the front line.

Of course I already do things like look out for signs of self-harm, eating disorders and depression and flag up students to pastoral support if I think there are issues. This term I have already filled out a couple of mental health questionnaires for students that I teach. I am happy to support them with any information I can provide, and will act on any advice I am given. I don't want to be put in a position where instead of flagging up a student for intervention that I'm supposed to dive in there myself.

BossWitch Tue 17-Feb-15 13:29:26

What noble said!

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 14:57:43

I don't think anyone is asking or expecting teachers to be performing amateur diagnoses of things like bipolar disorder or diving in there with a full intervention.

Noble, I think there will be many teachers who, like you, "look out for signs of self-harm, eating disorders and depression and flag up students to pastoral support if I think there are issues." But equally there will be many who feel out of their comfort zone, unsure what to do, if what they have done is effective or not, etc, so it is great it is recognised on this thread that some training around this might be helpful.

As far as helping to educate our children is concerned, forgive my ignorance on the depth of the curriculum (it's been a while since I was there!) but this is making me wonder if aspects of Mental Health could be incorporated into the Biology Curriculum? As far as I am aware, children study the nervous system, immune system, effects of viruses etc; could this also be an opportunity to visit and cover basics around how the brain and mind works? Effects of too much/too little seratonin etc, the names of some common MH conditions, debunk some myths about mental health issues? Just as this might cover conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease? Or does this happen already?

I don't think teachers should have to take full responsibility for our children's mental and emotional health, but they can play a part in raising awareness and educating about issues. And, like many aspects of learning, it should be a partnership between school and home, supported by experts in the field. That's what I mean by working in conjunction.

But I would have to agree, that without central support, or it being viewed as an alternative to good mental health care or absolution of parental responsibility; poor execution in the exisiting dire state of CAMHS, will do nothing but add further stress to our teachers.

Scepticalmum Tue 17-Feb-15 16:25:08

I totally agree with the sentiment that there needs to be a lot more focus on the mental wellbeing of children and young people, and that part of that should be through education. However, I also agree with the many other teachers on here that this can not be addressed just through schools.

I am not 'reluctant' to talk to my students about mental health - I am completely unqualified! I have had one 20 min training session in my 7 years in education! Even if it were more, I will never be a mental health professional. I can be trained to spot warning signs and give initial support, but mental health is a complex issue and needs to be addressed by professionals.

We do need more training, but there also need to be much wider support systems in place, better referral systems, much more investment in NHS mental health services for young people and support and advice for parents and carers - they see and know children far better than anyone else.

I feel some of these comments have been a little harsh and critical and I do applaud your efforts. I just think we need to (and hope we can do) much more than just tackle things through school.

(I also think it's sadly ironic that we want to get away from one off, tokenistic efforts, but this says it's been published as part of Children's Mental Health Week - as if this isn't an ongoing issue?)

Perfectstorm72 Tue 17-Feb-15 16:27:24

I agree totally with you Charlotte except I believe there should be AT LEAST one teacher trained in every school including Primary School. In my case my son was in year 6 when anxiety began....please if anyone else agrees then sign and share my petition to the government to fund schools for approx 300 pounds to train one member of staff in mental health first aid.

Perfectstorm72 Tue 17-Feb-15 16:30:34

Your post is absolutely spot on. That is why we need at least one teacher in every school trained. As a simple helper on hand for kids in crisis (or maybe not in crisis just needing understanding and a bit of support).

WhistlingPot Tue 17-Feb-15 18:10:40

Signed Perfect.

Perfectstorm72 Tue 17-Feb-15 18:30:36

smile Thanks WhistlingPot smile

Passmethecrisps Tue 17-Feb-15 20:58:52

whistling you asked about what already happens and I feel that most of what you talk about happens within the scottish PSHE curriculum. We talk repeatedly about good mental wellbeing and how to maintain it as well as how to know if it seems less good.

While I really do understand the ire of fellow teachers being asked to do yet one more thing (it feels like we are responsible for the world at times) there are schools who currently do much of what the post talks about. Of course every lesson doesn't need to 'cover it'. It should be part of your methodology in the class and ethos as a school

APotNoodleandaTommy Tue 17-Feb-15 21:38:05

Just out of curiosity does anyone follow the OP on Twitter? I find it very interesting. She is very directive in what she thinks is right, and yet refused to take feedback from anyone else; openly 'names and shames' people she disagrees in and, in my opinion, engages in direct and indirect cyber bullying. I would not engage her to support on training people to support mental wellbeing. Which is a shame, actually, as some of her points would be really valid if she handled herself more appropriately.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Tue 17-Feb-15 22:02:03

I don't follow her but have trawled back a few hours. She seems to be firmly of the view that some parents don't want to, or are unable to, support their DC adequately in this area. I agree with her and I can't see where she's been nasty to anyone. Cyberbullying is quite a strong accusation.

hijk Tue 17-Feb-15 22:27:54

I agree totally with you Charlotte except I believe there should be AT LEAST one teacher trained in every school including Primary School. In my case my son was in year 6 when anxiety began....please if anyone else agrees then sign and share my petition to the government to fund schools for approx 300 pounds to train one member of staff in mental health first aid.

This is another case of people wanting a magic wand, when no such wand exist.

At least one teacher trained in every school?

There is no such training, that would qualify a teacher for this, there is no possible time for anyone to do it in, record it in, set it up in a school, ( and the set up would be massive, financially and in terms of time, the paperwork generated alone would be impossible to manage, on top of everything else) there is no benefit, there is just scope for more policies, more paperwork, more demands on staff, more responsibilities, more for ofsted to check the paperwork on, and more blame, without benefiting a single child in any way what so ever.

APotNoodleandaTommy Wed 18-Feb-15 06:07:15

A few hours?
I've been following her for nearly 2 years. I feel I am justified in my statement, however hard that sounds. I wish there were more people suffering with mental health issues speaking up and trying to act; I find her way aggressive any very directive.

Cherriesandapples Wed 18-Feb-15 06:23:21

Mental health can be affected by everyday life. People with mental health problems can present very differently in different situations and occupation can affect both positively and negatively a persons well being. Children are at school 5 days a week, 38 (ish) weeks of the year.

Cherriesandapples Wed 18-Feb-15 06:39:34

I think mental health could be brought in to lots of subjects. The history of how the state has "cared" for people with mental health problems, at home locked away, in asylums, the move to community care, the current lack of beds in hospital and how children in this country are still being sent to police stations when they are I'll, the affect that skunk has on the brain and increase in psychosis amongst skunk users probably a good one ( I remember debating cannabis use at school, what an interesting topic.)
At primary level simple techniques for managing anger or conflict. The OP has bi polar, I think people that have experienced the world of mental illness should have a voice because from my perspective ( have a family member with bi polar) as someone who has visited institutions since I was 6 years old, nothing will get better unless everyone looks on mental health in the same way as physical disability.

PopularNamesInclude Wed 18-Feb-15 08:08:34

Everything hjik said.

'Have teachers deal with it' is shorthand for 'we are not going to fund the appropriate and necessary services'. Put big money into Camhs. Triple or quadruple its service capacity. This would go some way to providing real help and support. Giving pointless 'training' to some overworked geography teacher is not.

BossWitch Wed 18-Feb-15 08:59:42

That's fine cherries, perhaps you can also tell us what you plan to take out of those curriculum areas to make time for teaching mh instead? Which bit of the history curriculum can be chopped out?

Callooh Wed 18-Feb-15 10:05:32

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WhistlingPot Wed 18-Feb-15 10:28:31

whistling you asked about what already happens and I feel that most of what you talk about happens within the scottish PSHE curriculum. We talk repeatedly about good mental wellbeing and how to maintain it as well as how to know if it seems less good.

Thanks Passme, that's really good to know. It's very interesting you have raised Scotland as an example, it would be helpful to know if it is the same in England (particularly whether Biology syllabus covers MH issues in the same way as it does physical health issues, as this makes me think about the recent government commitment towards Parity of Esteem).

Incidentally, I believe Scotland has thrown far more into Mental Health, specifically around Suicide Prevention and Intervention, and well as Postvention; eg with their huge, centrally driven, Choose Life strategy, which pushes forward courses such as MHFA and ASIST across a broad spectrum of professions.

While I really do understand the ire of fellow teachers being asked to do yet one more thing (it feels like we are responsible for the world at times) there are schools who currently do much of what the post talks about. Of course every lesson doesn't need to 'cover it'. It should be part of your methodology in the class and ethos as a school

IMO you have hit the nail on the head there in terms of methodology and ethos. I think perhaps the concern is around whether or not all schools are signed up to the importance of this, and whether more can be done centrally to ensure MH is covered in as many ways as possible, wherever it is relevant, without it being a notably separate "thing".

Re: how do you fit it into the syllabus? I guess what we teach our children will always be subject to change, as we discover new ways of doing things, we are creating history and making landmarks in science all the time! Surely it's a matter for whoever sets the curriculum to decide and prioritise subject contect?

WhistlingPot Wed 18-Feb-15 10:52:19

This is another case of people wanting a magic wand, when no such wand exist.

At least one teacher trained in every school?

There is no such training, that would qualify a teacher for this

What is MHFA for Schools and Colleges?
MHFA for Schools and Colleges has been designed especially with schools in mind. Based on the Youth MHFA course but targeted to meet the needs of educational environments, MHFA Schools will cover key topics around young people’s mental health and wellbeing, with a strong practical focus on how support young people experiencing mental distress. Whilst the course is not a replacement for the 2 day Youth MHFA course, delegates will become Champions for better mental health in schools.

As a one-day course, it fits perfectly into schools’ inset training days and busy private school timetables, making it accessible for teaching staff across sectors.

How can MHFA for Schools and Colleges make a difference?

MHFA for Schools and Colleges teaches practical skills that can be used every day
It gives a deeper understanding to the complex issues relating to young people and mental health
It helps people recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems
It enables a young person to access appropriate professional help
MHFA England has a proven track record and demonstrates its effectiveness through evaluation

saintlyjimjams Wed 18-Feb-15 11:30:51

How does it 'enable a young person to access appropriate professional help' when those services are more or less non functioning?

I have spent last night & this morning corresponding with our local health chief trying to secure ds1 desperately needed access to CAMHS. Considering everyone familiar with him has been saying since the second week of January that he needs urgent help this really isn't good enough.

Until you try to access CAMHS it's hard to understand how bad it is.

noblegiraffe Wed 18-Feb-15 11:32:36

whistling it's your pet project and understandably you're keen to see it in schools. Are you aware of just how many other people are out there with their own pet projects that they want teachers to incorporate into their teaching?

I read a blog post recently, which I unfortunately can't find, where the author looked through the media last year and listed all the things that it was suggested should be taught in schools. You've probably heard of the high profile ones like British values and character. Cookery, coding, happiness, mindfulness, social media, equality and diversity, tooth-brushing. The dangers of drink, finance, humanism, black history, gay rights, first aid.

A lot of these are already on the curriculum in some form. But people always want more from schools, yet we only have 5 hours of lessons a day, a limited budget and limited expertise.

And teachers also need training time to keep up with the insane subject curriculum changes and latest diktats from Ofsted.

noblegiraffe Wed 18-Feb-15 13:15:54

Tom Bennett makes the point about trying to shoe-horn the cures to society's ills nicely here, as part of a longer blogpost which is well worth a read.

"In any closed system, this is vital – if we’re teaching x, we teach less y. It’s easy to imagine, in the manner of a student procrastinating before their finals, or a teacher at the start of the summer break, that time is in infinite supply, and that the hour will never be late. But teachers have approximately 200 days of five hours apiece per year. As it stands, we barely get them through the syllabuses. Every week I hear a different call from a segment of the chattering classes, insisting that some social ill or other be fixed by (of course) shoehorning something into the curriculum. That’s what they aways say: teach it in schools, and the evil evaporates: sexism; body image; bullying; vandalism….

But if we focus on what will expedite practical matters alone, we rob them of their birthright. Worse (and here I’ll make a practical point), you’ve hobbled their further studies. If they’re learning about mortgages and how to sign on the dole, the cruel mathematics of time insists they don’t learn about Under Milk Wood, or Stalin, or Copernicus. If we dispute that a child should learn quadratic equations, then we leave the next generation of mathematicians helpless until university. And it’s no good, no good at all to bleat, "Well, we should teach them both then." We can’t, we just can’t. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

This is one reason why it is so maddening that teachers are so regularly and comprehensively sidelined from discussions about education. We know what can be done; frequently, we know how to pull off miracles. But we can’t change the laws of physics. Other people, external to the system, are free to say what they like; to imagine that the teaching week is infinitely elastic, and worse, to believe that any dogma or ideology can be transmitted as easily as a jingle. We can teach them healthy eating, but we can’t make them eat healthily. We could teach them about compassionate relationships, but that wouldn't cure cruelty.

A curious assumption appears to underpin this attitude: that everything that ails society could be mended, if only the education system were tinkered with and tuned in just the right way. A drop more Tolpuddle Martyrs, a pinch less Planck. The curious continuation of this philosophy leads us inevitably to the conclusion that we, the schools, the teachers, are the enemies of utopia; we are the barrier to a new Golden Age. Well, to hell with that."

saintly is correct. If there is money to be spent on this, then it should go to CAMHS who are desperately underfunded.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 18-Feb-15 14:23:03

There are supposed to be teachers appropriately trained in health interventions in schools. They're called school nurses. My DS' primary doesn't have one, I think the high school does.

There are supposed to be people trained in supporting children with additional needs in schools. They are so woefully undertrained in my son's current primary that I am training them. And he 'only' has ASD, which is pretty common - he can't be the first child with ASD they've ever taught, despite their wide-eyed innocence at his difficulties.

There's supposed to be a service to support children with mental health and well-being issues in school. It's called CAMHS. It's easier to get an appointment with the Queen than one with CAMHS, but, you know, that's what they are there for.

This is fiddling round the edges. Support the systems and posts that are already there. Cut bureaucracy, instead of increasing it. Make it easier for all the professionals involved in our children's education - including teachers - to do their jobs.

Perfectstorm72 Wed 18-Feb-15 17:30:15

This is another case of people wanting a magic wand, when no such wand exist.

Erm, no. This is another case of people being pro-active and trying to enable those who care to have a little bit more understanding of the subject.

Perfectstorm72 Wed 18-Feb-15 17:33:53

LonnyVonny very well put. I am "only" a mother - what could I possibly know? I know that my DS primary school had NOBODY trained to recognise signs or symptoms of a very common mental illness "anxiety" and we spent 2 of his childhood years (& lots of money) trying to sort something which could have been more sympathetically handled early on. That's my primary concern and hence the petition to try and save others the heartache and lost time...

WhistlingPot Wed 18-Feb-15 23:57:52

noble I'm not sure what you mean by this is my "pet project". I am not connected to this OP (if that's what you mean?) but improving all aspects relating to mental ill health seems important, given a quarter of each and every classroom of children can expect to experience mental distress at some point during their lives. Then there is the impact on those around them; everyone knows someone who has experienced mental illness. Therefore it's likely there will be at least a few more than a quarter, if not half at least in any given classroom, who will go on to be affected by mental illness in some way.

These are big numbers, of people in our society, and it's impacting on our overall productivity, and the health and wellbeing of our nation. It's way more significant than some pet project of a few, seemingly well meaning but misguided individuals.

Yes, CAMHS has been allowed to become woefully under-resourced, and adult services too. They are at breaking point in fact. But nobody anywhere on this thread is saying that initiatives to improve awareness and education in schools should replace vital services to treat mental illness. Far from it.

Prevention, intervention and treatment/postvention are of equal importance. Even if resources were put in the right places in treating mental health, we would still need initiatives to improve mental health awareness and education in schools, for preventative outcomes and to support early intervention. That's why I am supporting this OP.

I completely appreciate that there seems to be a forever-expanding demands placed on what we teach children in school. But this isn't going to go away any time soon. We do have to listen to teachers who are saying it cannot be done with the education system the way it is. I hear that, and no I don't have the answer. But it is not enough to simply say no to (or ridicule) any further inclusions to the curriculum, particularly if they are evidenced to suggest improved outcomes. ( Working with young people: the impact of mental health awareness programmes in schools in the UK and Canada )

We have to find inventive ways to enrich and expand our children's learning and prioritize aspects that give the most meaningful impact to enable children to grow into adults who continue on a path of lifelong learning and application. I strongly believe better mental health knowledge and awareness in schools is a significant part of this.

WhistlingPot Thu 19-Feb-15 00:24:28

From the link:

Incorporating mental health awareness and emotional health promotion into the school curriculum is important, because it establishes the importance of mental health issues alongside other life-skills programmes such as sex and relationships, diet and nutrition, and physical exercise. It also provides a basic framework for understanding emotional well-being and mental illness.

Programmes in both the UK and Canada received a positive response from students and school representatives, reflecting a growing commitment to promoting mental health and well-being in the classroom.

Differences between the UK and Canada in terms of the impact of the sessions on literacy and attitudes were noted. At baseline, Canadian students were more aware than their UK counterparts. This may be a reflection of general levels of mental health literacy in the UK, known to be poor (16), which have resulted in the recent commitment of government to improve the mental health of the population and reduce discrimination and social exclusion experienced by people with mental health problems.

noblegiraffe Thu 19-Feb-15 10:51:30

Whistling, by pet project I meant your area of interest.

I have more kids in my classes with SEN than mental health difficulties. I've had no training in SEN either.

You've got a pot of money to give me some training. Would you give me training in SEN or mental health?

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 11:49:06

Schools and teachers should absolutely have at least a basic understanding of mental health issues in children and how to handle them appropriately - I'm staggered that anyone should think otherwise.

Even the most well-informed, responsible, effective parent in the world still has to hand their mentally ill child over to the care of their schoolteachers for six hours a day.

I'm fairly appalled by the attitudes of some of the teachers here tbh.

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 11:53:16

Re SEN and mental health difficulties, they are often one and the same thing, for example ASDs can cause massive anxiety, which is a mental health issue.

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 12:00:39

Also, mental health issues can profoundly affect the ability to meet educational targets, so surely it has to be something that's related to teaching? My DD's IEP is built solely around targets related to anxiety issues, and she is lucky to have a teacher that is understanding and trying to help.

BossWitch Fri 20-Feb-15 12:31:26

I would always be and have always been understanding and tried to help my students with mental health issues. But that isn't what is being suggested by the op. The two key ideas (and the ones I object to) seem to me to be thus:

A. Teachers should be educating all of their students about a whole range of mental health problems, including very complex illnesses such as bi-polar disorders. All teachers should be doing this, and it should be happening on a daily basis.

B. Teachers should form a front line mental health service, identifying mental health problems in students.

And possibly C. Teachers should be providing a level of treatment for these mh problems in the form of mental health first aid.

Teachers aren't trained for this. There is no budget to train teachers for this. There is no available time on a day to day basis and no space in an already squeezed curriculum for this. There may well be - quite justifiably - teachers who don't want to spend significant amounts of time and energy dealing with mh issues - not because they can't be arsed, but because they feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, saddened, helpless. (Ask yourself if you could be a mh nurse? I couldn't - I don't have the emotional resilience.)

Add to that ththe fact that as soon as this becomes an officresponsibility for teachers it will be monitored by ofsted, and therefore there will need to be a paper trail to show to inspectors. So it will increase the already impractical level of paperwork required by teachers.

It could also be used as an excuse in future to avoid funding for mh services themselves - the government could deflect criticism of cuts to / dire failure of services such ad camhs by harping on about investment in mh care in schools.

All of which makes me very worried indeed.

BossWitch Fri 20-Feb-15 12:32:44

*official responsibility

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 13:15:40

BossWitch - I realise my points have strayed a bit from the OP's, they are more in response to some of the comments by teachers which followed on.

Re some of your points

B. Teachers should form a front line mental health service, identifying mental health problems in students.

I suppose the contentious word is 'identifying' as this implies diagnosis - teachers should absolutely not be expected to diagnose and treat. However they surely need to have enough knowledge to be able to spot problems and refer appropriately (though the lack of support with referrals is another huge issue). I get that there is a huge training gap here - but the first step seems to be for the system to 'get' what some of the problems are and try to address them.

I would have thought that, for example, it is important to understand that some mental health conditions, eg anxiety (often from undiagnosed ASDs), will manifest as aggression/shut-down/avoidance/disobedience in certain situations of stress. This might occur at school but hardly ever at home, thus putting the burden on schools to identify and deal with what looks like a discipline issue but is in fact a complicated mental health issue.

Conversely, some anxious children will 'save up' their schoolday stress and release it at home - it is also important that teachers understand this and don't dismiss it as parents' inability to impose discipline.

Also there will of course be cases where parents will not seek help for their children themselves due to their own circumstances - disability, unwillingness, absence etc, so it is unfortunately left to schools to try and support the child. I can completely understand your reservations about this - especially in the light of shocking lack of funding to CAMHS and other sources of support. But children need to be supported 24/7 by what is often a woefully un-joined-up system - it's no good schools washing their hands of mental health issues when the mentally ill children are there, inconveniently, in the classrooms, with nowhere else to go.

And possibly C. Teachers should be providing a level of treatment for these mh problems in the form of mental health first aid.

As a pp said, like it or not, teachers ARE in the front-line for providing mh first aid, so it makes sense to be trained in the same way you would be trained to look after a head injury or nosebleed.

noblegiraffe Fri 20-Feb-15 14:14:48

I'm not trained to look after a head injury either. If a child suffers a head injury, I have to call for a first aider. If a child suffers a panic attack, I call student support.

I can't look after a child with a head injury or a panic attack, I've got 29 other students to teach.

PopularNamesInclude Fri 20-Feb-15 15:50:53

We are not trained to deal with physical health issues, either, not even nosebleeds. We do have first aiders at the school. No, teachers should not be trained or expected to pick up complex mental health issues. I wouldn't know if your child had a thyroid condition, or bronchitis, or diabetes either. Should I be trained in picking up physical health problems too? The PGCE is only a year long, but maybe if we cut training on foundation subjects we could squeeze in pre-med.

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 16:55:49

* No, teachers should not be trained or expected to pick up complex mental health issues.*

Why is it that some CAMHS and ASD assessment centres insist on having reports from teachers before taking referrals then? In many areas teachers are the GATEKEEPERS to these services.

BlueAndSwirly Fri 20-Feb-15 16:58:45

By 'deal with' I don't mean personally treat the injury - but you have to be able to accurately assess the situation, call appropriate backup, and deal with the student in the meantime, surely?

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