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Experience of mental health provision in secondary schools

(16 Posts)
Silverine08 Sun 26-Feb-17 11:17:13

Hi all,

I have recently started teaching In a secondary school and it appears that a fairly significant number of my kids suffer from mental health issues.

We have a counsellor onsite who many of the pupils have scheduled sessions with once a week. Beyond this we don't have anything. Certainly nothing preventative. Does anyone know any schools that do something different?

I'm really interested in mental health in adolescents and particularly trying to prevent them developing in the first place. I have some ideas of what I'd like to do but keen to hear anyone's thoughts or opinions or whether you don't feel school is the right place to try to manage this.

fourcorneredcircle Sun 26-Feb-17 11:55:37

My own high school had a counsellor who ran sessions on an apppointment basis once a week 17 years ago. The counsellor wore an NHS lanyard. So I asssume she was arranged through them? Don't know, I was a child!

I've worked in four secondary schools over the last ten years who had a similar set up although to the best of my knowledge it was the school who had organised this, they weren't from the NHS.

My current school could not afford to replace our counsellor when she resigned last Easter. So, now we have to rely on CAMHS - who are woefully underfunded and understaffed as a result. Referring a child is a long process - GP has to be involved, therefore family too. Sometimes, this will mean that the students will not/ can not engage with it. Not only that but many young people don't meet their criteria.

There are some charities we can access for specific bereavement counselling, and we do.

There just isn't any money to do more... even though we would love to. In a time when we can't afford teachers (who, putting it bluntly are the most basic requirement of school staff) I can understand why we can't afford MH support. Doesn't mean we don't wish there was a magic pot of money somewhere.

The government don't care really. They say schools should champion MH but remove the advisor they hired as a MH Tsar... their actions speak louder than their words.

Silverine08 Sun 26-Feb-17 12:20:30

I totally get the lack of funding in schools generally. And don't get me started on mental health services generally. I am pretty familiar with mental health issues and I know that a number of my kids come from very difficult backgrounds which can lead to fairly complex issues that need to be dealt with by a professional.

I was thinking more about the kids who develop general anxiety or show symptoms of depression mostly due to low self esteem and feeling they are the only people who feel the way they do. I developed severe depression at about 15 which wasn't diagnosed until my 30s and I remember quite clearly feeling that I was alone in how I felt and couldn't talk to anyone because they would think I was weird.

I wondered whether any schools run like an after school club where the primary purpose is to teach kids about raising and maintaining self esteem, what to do when something bad happens and maybe just talk about what feelings are quite common.

Something like that anyway. I might be totally wrong but I would hope just some information and honest chat might help some kids getting to the point where they can't cope anymore. Especially on the self-esteem point. Kids have always been vulnerable in this way but frankly with everyone showing how perfect their lives are all the time on social media, I'm surprised some of these kids make it through school at all.

BadToTheBone Sun 26-Feb-17 12:27:50

My ds has no school counselling but the school referred him to our local CAMHS who took their recommendation seriously and he's been going there for a few months. The school and CAMHS speak regularly to ensure they're working closely together and following the same procedures. I have been impressed tbh.

Trb17 Sun 26-Feb-17 12:30:08

I have no professional insight, but as a mum I'd just like to say that every school should see self esteem as highly important. Good for you Silverine08 for focusing on it and I hope you can put things in place.

I hope my DD gets a good education, but if it came to a choice I'd rather she have healthy self esteem and be happy within herself.

fourcorneredcircle Sun 26-Feb-17 12:35:44

I don't know if any schools run an after school club like that - I've never come accross one/heard of one. The sort of support you mention would be better on a 1:1 level anyway wouldn't it if a child was already struggling? As I imagine many young people would struggle to open up.

In addition, after school clubs still require staffing. There are fewer and fewer in schools because teachers time is so taken by the planning, marking and resourcing required for the "day job". Sad but true.

Teachers and other school staff such as TAs do generally try and be supportive
and sensitive to adolescent MH, so for example, in form time there might be a general discussion about feelings, emotions etc. Or a teacher might pick up on something a child says in class and take the opportunity to discuss it. Some schools may have MH as part of their PSHE curriculum, but it's not a given that students get specific PSHE lessons anyway - many schools do "discrete" teaching of this syllabus.

Thegiantofillinois Sun 26-Feb-17 12:40:03

A school near me has mindfulness/ meditation sessions in a done out room.

We have a fantastic chaplain and TAs who specialise. I teach a lot of older kids, so I see a lot anxiety etc and we do tend to a lot about those issues.

fourcorneredcircle Sun 26-Feb-17 12:45:04

TheGiant the meditation/mindfulness sessions sound good! Are they well attended? Or is it an expectation that everyone goes sometimes? I can see that there would be benefit in making sure that each student had at least attended one session to see how it works but I'm not sure of the practicalities of that!

Thegiantofillinois Sun 26-Feb-17 12:47:17

Don't know, it's a friend of a who does it.I think bid boys are responding well to it.

I had cbt years and years ago nicked a few of her methods with my uber stressed t top set a couple of years ago.

fallenempires Sun 26-Feb-17 12:49:27

Have you considered contacting Children's Services as they may offer after school mindfulness courses to teenagers.

fourcorneredcircle Sun 26-Feb-17 13:07:18

This might be of interest to some of you. It's the most up to date publication I can find from the DfE on MH in schools.

A lot of it is aimed towards what help to should be offered towards individual pupils with specific issues but it has some stuff on whole school resources too.

I've just read it, it makes good sense.

I think I'm a bit cross though that although it makes the provision for serious cases of MH problems the responsibility of CAHMS/NHS just about every other MH support system it recommends is local/national charity schemes. Which if the government is serious about seeing MH as equally important as physical health seems a bit like them saying "oh... you have reasonably well managed diabetes? Perhaps this well meaning local charity can offer to support your care rather than the NHS"

That's not an anti charity bash by the way, they do amazing work all over the UK, I suppose I'm just cross about the actions/words conundrum again.

Silverine08 Sun 26-Feb-17 18:03:52

Thanks for your info guys. I might start something up and just staff it myself after school.

What I'm trying to address or think about is trying to work with kids BEFORE they get to a point where professional intervention is required. Mental health care is badly funded on the whole and expensive and I feel quite strongly that there should be more of a focus on dealing with some of the common root causes. I am more than aware that there are a number of kids who start secondary school with fairly established issues as a result of e.g. Home life but there are also loads of kids that develop issues as they go through school.

Personally, I think it's crazy that there is no funding for prevention of mental healthcare as it is becoming so common that there is no way that the government will ever be able to afford to treat most people properly. Personally, I would like to come up with some ideas and then am tempted to approach some businesses, locally and in the city (I worked in the city for 15 years so I have contacts) to see if they would part fund any schemes. When I left the city, one of the biggest costs for businesses (and I believe it applies nationally) is staff taking time off with mental health issues.

I reckon they would back something that worked towards preventing those issues from arising in the first place (even for their reputation).

From what I'm hearing it seems like mindfulness and meditation is the only thing on offer, if anything.

In my opinion, lack of self esteem or understanding how to manage self esteem is a core aspect of mental health issues. My school, like others I'm sure, makes various statements about promoting self esteem in everything the pupils do but the only evidence I've seen of this is linked entirely to academic progress and trying to get the kids to believe that they can do work. Thus is great for school work but does nothing for them on a personal level.

Even as a starting point I doubt whether any of my kids could really explain what self-esteem is. It just seems to be a word bandied around in relation to school work. I appreciate that it is still very early days for schools to even start thinking about these issues but has anyone seen anything different?

noblegiraffe Sun 26-Feb-17 18:31:31

Teachers are not qualified to be responsible for the mental health of students and I am deeply suspicious of attempts to roll out stuff like 'Mindfulness' in schools when there isn't a strong evidence base for its use in young children, and especially where instead of being implemented by mindfulness professionals it will be done by some well-meaning adult who has watched a video or read a book but has no professional training.

Mental health problems are an issue in secondary schools. The solution is proper funding for mental health services, and for hiring in experts to give advice in proper sessions to the school.

wannabestressfree Sun 26-Feb-17 18:44:42

I am with noble and I run a unit within a school. I also have two children with asd and one of those was sectioned for two years so
I have more experience than most.

We run clubs within the unit but we have all sorts of children within it and the mix is not always great. Mental health is woefully underfunded and the waiting list is 18 months where I live. It makes me cross.

corythatwas Sun 26-Feb-17 23:23:04

One thing I think you need to be wary of, though, when working with adolescents with MH issues/depression is the assumption that these always have to be connected to the same issues of self-esteem and bullying/family problems/pressure to conform. Adolescents are individuals with all sorts of different backgrounds and problems and genetic make-up. Even having MH issues from early childhood doesn't necessarily imply family-related problems.

The people who dealt with dd wasted many years trying to identify totally non-existent problems with peers and family- and frankly, it wasn't terribly good for her self-esteem. In her case, it is an underlying genetic tendency (recorded through at least 4 generations) to high anxiety, which will latch on to pretty well any problem it is suggested that she might have- this can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It's a bit like a GP diagnosing every patient who comes into his surgery with flu because it is the most common complaint.

mosi2014 Tue 28-Feb-17 17:40:23

Have you heard of Dick Moore? He visits schools in the UK talking to teachers, students and parents.

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