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Teachers ‘lack training’ to help pupils with mental health problems

The Scotsman logo The Scotsman 10/12/2018 KATRINE BUSSEY
a man wearing a suit and tie © JP License

These were some of the findings of a survey carried out by the the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

A total of 51% of the teachers questioned said the job had either led to them developing a mental health problem, or had made an existing condition worse.

Meanwhile, when it came to helping pupils with mental health difficulties, 71% said they lacked the skills to do this - with only 13% of teachers having received mental health first aid training.

More than nine out of 10 (92%) want to see mental health training become a key part of teacher training courses - something which the Foundation is also calling for.

Figures show that some courses provide student teachers with as little as 15 hours of training in health and wellbeing over the four-year duration of their courses, it said.

However, 85% of the 418 primary and secondary teachers who were surveyed said if they were given more training in this area, it could help them better take care of their own emotional condition.

Toni Giugliano, policy manager at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland said: “It's remarkable that despite the growing number of children struggling to cope, mental health is still not a core part of the teacher training curriculum.

“Understanding child brain development, emotional vocabulary, self-esteem, self-care and managing stress are not extra-curricular - they should be core to what teachers learn from day one and throughout their careers to help them perform their job.

“Our research also shows that around half of teachers have struggled with their own mental health due to the pressures of their job. It's clear that investing in training will not only benefit pupils but will help teachers look after their own emotional health.

“Stress in adults can often leak into young minds, which is why addressing teacher mental health is equally important. We need a ‘whole-school approach' where pupils and staff can support one another to thrive.”

He added: “Unless we put more emphasis on nurturing emotionally literate, resilient children we'll continue to see more of them in crisis and distress.”

The Scottish Children's Services Coalition, which campaigns to improve services for children and young people said the results of the survey were “no surprise”.

A spokesman said: “While it has been estimated that around three children in every classroom have a mental health problem, it is disappointing to note that more than seven out of 10 teachers feel they lack the right training to help them address mental health concerns, with only 13% having received mental health first aid training.

“Like the Mental Health Foundation, we have long called for mental health training to be embedded in the teacher training curriculum and training should not just be restricted to teachers, but to all school staff, in a whole school approach to mental health.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said mental health first aid training was being provided in schools, and that this year's Programme for Government had included a number of measures aimed at improving mental health care for young people.

He also stressed work was taking place to reduce teacher workloads.

The spokesman said: “Education is our number one priority and we recognise the pressures and challenges facing teachers, such as those highlighted by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland. That is why we have taken action to reduce teacher workloads, clarifying and simplifying the curriculum framework and removing unnecessary bureaucracy.

“As part of our Programme for Government we have committed to wide ranging actions to better support children's and young people's mental health and wellbeing.

“In addition to counselling through schools we have committed to further teachers and school staff understanding of mental health and wellbeing through specific resources to support training. This is in addition to the work already under way on the provision of mental health first aid training for schools.”

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