Mental Health Handbook for Schools

Mental Health Handbook for Schools

Mental Health Handbook for Schools

Mental Health Handbook for Schools

Synopsis

As the government strives for a more inclusive education policy, more and more teachers find themselves in the frontline when dealing with children with mental health problems. Many have not had training in such matters and so feel unprepared and uncertain when faced with difficult situations. The Mental Health Handbook for Schools provides valuable information on a comprehensive range of mental health problems with which teachers are often confronted. Drawing on up-to-date research and practice in these areas the book considers what schools can do, within the special needs framework, to help pupils with these problems. It usefully reflects on the role of the mental health services in relation to schools and how schools can adopt a whole-school preventative approach to mental health problems. The authors address an extensive range of mental health problems including Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorders and schizophrenia. They also cover situations that can often lead to the development of mental health problems including bullying, divorce and marital conflict, bereavement and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Excerpt

Schools are such an ordinary part of our everyday experience that it is all too easy for us to overlook how extraordinary they are. Entrusted implicitly with the well-being of our young, they are required to take on the formidable task of enriching, cultivating and educating the minds of increasingly diverse groups of human beings. They are first and foremost places of learning, of building competencies and academic achievement; but they are also places of safekeeping, of care and encouragement in creating the health and the confidence necessary for future independence in adulthood. Schools have many functions, meeting a wide range of needs in a broad spectrum of young people. A Department of Education circular in 1994, called Pupils with Problems, made it clear that 'schools … play a vital part in promoting the spiritual, cultural, mental and physical development of young people … the emotional development of children must continue to be a concern of main-stream education'. More recently, in a consultation document, entitled Schools: Building on Success, the department has emphasised the importance of 'establishing Education with character in schools'. Amongst other things, it states that schools should provide opportunities for pupils to 'develop as well-rounded, creative, self-reliant individuals, who know right from wrong, who can work in teams, who respect their fellow pupils whatever their background, who are able to manage their own learning …'. All of this is to be much commended, but we do need to acknowledge how much it adds up to a very tall order - and the teachers who work in the schools need all the training and support they can get to meet such high and important aspirations. At the heart of this book is a deep concern for this need and a full recognition of the breadth of responsibility that the teachers carry for both the mental health and education of their pupils.

'Mental health' and 'education' - these are words and concepts that over time have rarely sat comfortably with each other. The word 'mental' has had its immediate popular association with madness, giving rise to all kinds of fears about loss of control and self-coherence and of stigmatisation. 'Education' has had a more favourable reception, but for many it has too rapidly been linked to academia, with little reference to 'health'. A crude divide has occurred in our thinking about emotion and intellect, to a large extent fostered in the histories, trainings and preoccupations of those who engage in the separate world of schools and mental health services. Much of this may well have been necessary in the past, but increasingly it is being seen as unhelpful, serving only to obscure one or two simple truths that, if more fully accepted, would be of inestimable value in child development. It is, for example, in the very process of education that physical and mental health are enhanced; equally it is out of physical and mental health that the learning potential of individuals is increased.

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