Northampton lecturer advises government on how to support school children with mental health problems

Date 6.03.2017

School children suffering in silence with mental health problems will be helped by recommendations to the Government by an expert from the University of Northampton.

A report by a Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing from the University of Northampton will help the Government to better support children with mental health difficulties – especially those youngsters who feel isolated and excluded at school.

Dr Tania Hart’s report – which has been accepted and published by the Parliamentary Health Select Committee – forms part of the findings from her recently completed PhD study. Dr Hart’s research centres on the educational needs of school children experiencing mental health problems and emotional distress who, for complex reasons, often remain silent about their difficulties in the classroom and avoid seeking support.

Dr Hart explained: “There are many barriers in a school environment which make these children feel isolated and excluded – for example stigma, and a limited mental health understanding from their teachers. These children are more susceptible to bullying and peer conflict. My findings have a key message; that these children do not want to stand out from the crowd or feel different from their peers.”

Dr Hart’s report recommends a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health, where a school works to educate both pupils and staff about recognising mental health issues. She also urges Government policy makers to place an emphasis on improving teacher awareness of mental health, especially during teacher training.

“Schools need to put emotional security on their agenda,” Dr Hart advises. “Every school must first create a caring and empathic, non-discriminative culture, which is aware of the importance of good mental health. Emphasis can then be placed on building stronger teacher-pupil relationships; once young people feel more emotionally and socially connected to their teachers, they will feel more able to divulge their difficulties and seek support.”

Dr Hart’s research summarises that in this environment, young people are more likely to allow Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) to share information relating to their mental health difficulties with their school. This shared information will then allow teachers to tailor educational and pastoral support according to the child’s individual needs.

To read Dr Hart’s evidence in full, click here.