What do we mean by ‘a whole school approach to mental health’?

I hear the phrase ‘whole school approach to mental health’ almost weekly in conversations with organisations, schools and at conferences. It is usually in the context of the importance of this being a solution to rising mental health issues.

Everyone agrees – we need a solution that isn’t just a quick fix or one-off intervention. But what do we actually mean by a whole school approach? What does this actually look like?

If you haven’t downloaded 10 steps to a mentally healthy school yet, then this would be a step in the right direction in understanding what a whole school approach might look like. I’ve had the benefit of working on several evidence-based programmes over the years and have taken elements of these programmes and learning and put them into this easy to read, useable document.

In my experience of working with 100s of schools, achieving a whole school approach takes four things: energy, time, knowledge and tenacity.

  • Energy and time: The drive and time to learn with passion to lead, influence and engage lasting change.
  • Knowledge: To know what mental health is, how to prevent issues from escalating and understand what your school is doing well and what it is not doing so well.
  • Tenacity: To lead change and keep going even when mental health sometimes isn’t a schools’ priority or government priority.

If you are going to invest your precious energy and time, you want to make sure you are investing it into the right activities, those that are proven to work, and get to the heart of specific issues, as well as those aimed at preventing problems from starting in the first place.

Start with this two step approach: read the 10 steps to a mentally healthy school and then use the 10 steps to a mentally healthy school progress tracker to help you understand what you are doing well and which areas you need to prioritise. They are free so please do use them, they’ll save you time and provide a useful structure to implement and document your efforts.

If you want more help, I have launched an online course and developed some tools which will help you with prioritising the areas that you need to focus your energy including hints, tips and strategies which will make sure that your whole school approach is successful. This is available via The Academy, and you can find out more details here.