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11 Mar 2016

3 Tips For Managing the Growing Burden of Student Mental Health

3 Tips For Managing the Growing Burden of Student Mental Health

The UK Education Sector is facing a serious mental health crisis, as the volume of mental health problems among students increases.

A survey carried out by the Association of School and College leaders found that 79% of head teachers reported an increase of self harm and suicidal thoughts among students, and 40% reported a rise in cyber-bullying.

Teachers say that internal procedures for identifying students with mental health problems are robust enough, but when it comes to referring an individual for specialist mental health support, CAMHS (Children’s Mental Health Services) is poor at handling issues.

Interviewed for the Telegraph at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) annual conference, Malcolm Trobe, ASCL interim general secretary said:

“Leaders tell us that they have difficulty in accessing local specialist support,” he said.

“They have problems in obtaining information about the wellbeing of young people who are referred. And many doubt the effectiveness of services which are often pitifully resourced.”

Now the government has pledged £1.4 billion towards improving children’s mental health services, but the impact of that investment is unlikely to make a difference for some time to come.

Therefore, until improvements start to be felt on the ground, it is teachers who are left to cope with the 1 in 10 young people who now suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.

Schools need to have their own strategies in place to ensure that while there remains a gap in the provisioning of services, they are doing everything they can to ensure that the most vulnerable students are not overlooked. Here are three important tips for managing mental health in schools and colleges:

1. Ensure teachers are supported and positive In a positive environment where teachers aren’t under stress, where they are supported by senior leaders and where training on mental health is prioritised, identifying behaviour changes in students becomes easier. When a teacher is also feeling low, anxious, or depressed, it will show. A vulnerable student is less likely to confide in the teacher for support when that teacher doesn’t seem approachable. For some students circumstances at home make it impossible to share their feelings with a parent, and for those students, having a teacher to talk to becomes like a lifeline.

2. Embrace technology as a trusted aid when it comes to student mental health The internet has accelerated teaching and learning possibilities for students, but left unregulated or with only the most rudimentary level of filtering in place, it also presents a serious risk to students. Schools need to be aware of the threat and risk to students and have processes in place to identify problems. Smoothwall’s web filter provides a proactive mechanism for identifying vulnerable students. By monitoring student’s web browsing and search history, school system administrators and safeguarding officers are alerted to potential suicide cases, students being abused and cyber-bullying. The reports that Smoothwall provide also shows the concerning content that was accessed and the context of the conversation to determine if it was a one off, or if there is a pattern of worsening behaviour.

3. Generate a record for Ofsted and CAMHS One of the first things that Ofsted will ask for when it comes to evaluating your existing safeguarding processes is evidence that your students are complying with your acceptable use policy. Logs and reports generated by Smoothwall’s web filter can be presented to Ofsted inspectors as evidence of AUP compliance. In addition, both Ofsted and CAMHS will require evidence of any individual who has been identified by a teacher or SENCO as having a mental health problem, and what steps were taken to escalate the issue.

For advice on how Smoothwall can help you address mental health issues, get in touch: [email protected], or join a free e-Safety Masterclass for advice from safeguarding experts.

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