Session 201: How can we Promote Positive Emotional Well-being and Mental Health in Pupils?

Date: Thursday 8th May, 2014. Host @PSHEAssociation.

The focus of this session explored how educators can promote positive emotional well-being and mental health in the pupils we teach, focused on the following questions:

Q1 – Does pupil mental and emotional wellbeing fall within our remit? Should it?
Q2 – What skills, language and knowledge do children need to promote and safeguard their own wellbeing?
Q3 – Do you teach about mental health topics? What’s worked well / less well?
Q4 – How can we safeguard pupil wellbeing in class when teaching about difficult subjects?
Q5 – How can we support the mental health of school staff?
Q6 – What practical steps can we take at school to support pupils facing mental health difficulties?


Thanks to everyone who contributed to what turned out to be a very lively chat on the topic of mental health and emotional wellbeing.  The chat was wide ranging and mental health was discussed both the in context of lessons and teaching as well as supporting pupil wellbeing more broadly.  Staff well-being was considered briefly too and seems a topic for further discussion.

We opened the discussion by considering whether mental and emotional wellbeing should fall within teachers’ remit and looked at whether it was appropriate to cover these topics within the curriculum.  The overwhelming feeling was that it was completely appropriate for schools to provide this kind of guidance and support, and that happy children made better learners.  However, many teachers currently felt unsupported and poorly trained in relation to pupil mental health and emotional wellbeing. There was a fear that we may unwittingly do more harm than good when trying to teach about, or support mental health issues.

The importance of encouraging more open conversations about mental health in order to improve the wellbeing of both staff and students was highlighted.  Lack of available support from CAMHS was referred to but some alternatives were suggested (see links at the foot of this post).

Many of the teachers contributing said that Staff staff wellbeing seemed to be often overlooked and was believed to be put under at a time when pressures by of  heavy workloads,  and targets and a culture where it felt impossible to share difficulties meant many staff felt they needed more support.  It was generally felt that the responsibility lay with leadership teams and governing bodies to ensure that staff are adequately supported adequate support for staff.

The chat finished with several people expressing how pleased they were that we were able to discuss the topic of mental health so openly during the chat. @ShareMySchool summed it up nicely: very important topic… the more it is discussed the better. Communities rock 🙂

Eye Catching Tweets from the Session:

(re: should pupil mental health and emotional wellbeing fall within our remit?)

@RDG01: I believe it does. Duty of care for 1 & basic needs have to be met before learning can take place?

@Pauly2580: If it is within our sphere of influence, I believe it is part of our moral purpose

@MrACalvert: we deal with mental health issues every single day, and we use the health services more than ever. So yes it’s our job

@AKnill: “Every Child Matters” so we should at least have an awareness of the whole child. We must know our limitations too

@PauloSwift: of course! It is a huge part of our jobs as the responsible adults they interact with daily.

@epaceoline: I think it absolutely has to fall into remit. Raising awareness and CPD training essential

@GeographyCarrie: Happy students are more successful as they can often deal with stress better

@MrTomHills: not seen as priority because priorities almost always governed by Estyn/Ofsted priorities

@epaceonline: Nipping difficulties in bud can help prevent bigger and potentially more serious issues later

@JonBrunskill: A teacher’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing of their students. Of course includes mental/emotional.

@Mad_Teach: unfortunately tho we don’t have training / ability to help much. How do u know if doing more harm than good?

@Mad_Teach: Think we need to look at WHY self harm, eating disorders etc r on rise. We put so much stress on these kids from such a young age

@PauloSwift: but are we suitable equipped to effectively handle it? Is training adequate for teachers?

@BaxZo: confidence of teachers to teach about MH linked to culture of silence about mental health?

@AlexaRamsaroop: Mindfulness techniques, life skills and meditation should be promoted in schools & teachers receive mentoring/ support!

@GeographyCarrie: I’m not sure teachers get enough CPD on mental health issues in particular.

@BeyondLevels: Training and support for teachers dealing with these issues woefully, or even dangerously, inadequate

@ReachPsychology: NQTs & experienced teachers tell me there is v little input on SEN/mental health/stress etc at teacher training

@Runsworth: Society puts pressures on kids, not schs. Young girls want to be stick thin, perfect bodies, exposure to all that’s bad

@ReachPsychology: Schools are buying in services (like me) because EdPsych & CAMHS is increasingly hard to access….

@ReachPsychology: Unfair to put teachers in this position. GB/SLT need to ensure qualified counsellor services available

@PauloSwift: Teachers may be willing to help with these issues but may not know how to properly go about it

(re supporting teachers)

@Mat_Teach: Think looking after teachers’ mental health is as important as the kids. U can’t support others if u can’t support self.

@MattPearson: Given the high numbers of teacher who quit before 5 years teaching, addressing these issues make economic sense in itself

@MattPearson: my experience of teachers feeling stressed (which *can* lead to MH issues), workload is the most common cause..

@Magic_Kitten: ensure departments feel support through leadership structure – an open door not just a command chain

@baxzo: stop overloading and undermining teachers, listen to & support them

@rrunsworth: Guess first step is good SLT which acknowledges issues & doesn’t bury head in sand?

@MrTomHills: Introduce a coaching approach to performance management and add wellbeing as a non-negotiable element. Gets staff to engage

@ePaceonline: We have to ensure that we create positive, caring and tolerant environments in schools for staff and pupils

@Uphill_Struggle: A MH charter that all schools must sign. Training for SLT on signs & effects of stress. Culture of openness.

@GeographyCarrie: encouragement of an open, supportive, collaborative working environment is crucial for ensuring staff well being

(Re: how to support student MH)

@EnterpriseSBox: Clear systems and processes. Points of contact, mentors, peer support, pastoral support, information available and a culture that allows all to be able to talk to someone about their difficulties openly with a trusted teacher.

@RaiseChildrens: ensure that they have a few peers that understand and support them.

@Raisechildrens: Listening is the key. Listen to the yp. Teach them to listen to each other. Teach them to listen to what their needs are. Listen.

@Geordiemooch: training for all staff, PSHE education for all pupils, create a safe environment with key staff clearly signposted

@Debsgf: It’s about promoting a whole school focus on mental health. It’s something that affects everyone

@Magin_Kitten: proper training courses on common MH issues, but also reassurance that we’re not counsellors, just educators

@baxzo: need to ensure YP know where & who they can go to for help and support, give YP confidence and skills to do so

@AlexaRamsaroop: Promote children’s emotional well being and life skills by touching issues in lessons & promote positivity & confidence

Tweets of the Week:

@AKnill: “Every Child Matters” so we should at least have an awareness of the whole child. We must know our limitations too

@JonBrunskill: A teacher’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing of their students. Of course includes mental/emotional.

Full Archive from the Chat:

UKEdChat Session 201 – Focus on Mental Health issues in schools


The chat was hosted by The PSHE Association whose mission is to raise the status, quality and impact of Personal Social Health and Economic education (PSHE) and enable high quality PSHE education teaching and learning for all children and young people.  In response to member feedback, the Association now has an increased focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing.


Twitter: @PSHEassociation

Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Advisor: / @PookyH

Links to resources which were suggested by contributors:

Research to link stress with high stakes testing – (via @MattPearson ) – resources re mental health available online: (via @LHMMacKenzie )

Childline via @Jon_Brunskill: Do any teachers refer chn to Childline? The counsellors there have the time to talk and training to help chn develop strategies

If you get the chance to attend Young Mental Health First Aid training, do it, really helpful overview -@LHMMacKenzie

Poem by @FrogPhilp inspired by his own varying mental state in school:

Piece about the rise of mindfulness via @DebsGF

Common Misconceptions about Eating Disorders (downloadable resource) via @PSHEAssociation

Talking to Pupils when they make Mental Health Disclosures (downloadable resource): via @PSHEAssociation

Ten Questions about Bullying – to stimulate discussion during tutor / circle time (downloadable resource) via @PSHEAssociation – mental health blog with advice / support for teachers and parents written by @PookyH – information, advice and support re eating disorders for teachers written by @PookyH

Poems on the topic of mental health by @PookyH, some of which could form the basis for discussion with staff / pupils

Pig of happiness film has helped my children to help each other… Can’t help but smile when I watch it 🙂 – @NickyMcc3

10 steps for avoiding teacher burnout via @PassionateAboot

The Stand Up Kid – video to get kids discussing MH via @KentHSTeam

Time to Change children and young people’s programme via @KentHSTeam

Stop Stigma Resource (free) by Cornwall Healthy Schools Team via @PSHEAssociation

Image source: All Things Wildly Considered.

All Things Wildly Considered

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