Promoting mental health and wellbeing in schools

12 May 2016

mental health

A new research trial is underway to evaluate the effectiveness of training for teachers to recognise the sign and symptoms of mental health problems in colleagues and students.

A study currently being undertaken by researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Bristol will evaluate the effectiveness of the Wellbeing in Secondary Education (WISE) intervention. The intervention offers mental health training to school staff for them to identify mental ill health in colleagues and students, before referring them on to specialist help if needed.

24 secondary schools in Bristol and South Wales will take part in the trial. It will involve mental health training for up to sixteen staff identified by colleagues as being likely to make good peer supporters. These staff will set up a confidential peer support service for colleagues. A further proportion of teaching staff will receive mental health training so that they might support students.

The researchers will evaluate the impact of the WISE intervention on teacher and student wellbeing, as well as its cost effectiveness.  Its effects on teacher depression, sickness absence, and presenteeism at work, as well as student attendance and academic performance will also be monitored and recorded.

Dr Rhiannon Evans of Cardiff University’s Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) who is leading the study in Wales said: “There is evidence to suggest that teachers experience greater levels of mental ill health compared to other professions. We also know that teaching staff are increasingly required to offer emotional support to students, but that they rarely receive adequate training to perform this role. The intervention is intended to change the culture around how school’s talk about mental health and wellbeing, whilst providing school staff with much needed skills.”

The National Institute for Health Research’s Public Health Research Programme is funding the study, with the intervention costs being provided by Public Health Wales in Wales, and by Public Health England and Bristol City Council in England.