A culture recognising mental health issues is important. This guidance identifies the tools available to use to help those with mental health issues in schools.

Although employers cannot control all the factors that affect mental health, they have a key role in managing the working conditions that can have an influence on stress and mental health, as well as ensuring people with mental ill-health issues have the support they need and are not discriminated against or stigmatised.

Managing mental health issues in schools will help you to:

  • retain valuable, skilled, and experienced staff, saving time and costs

  • reduce sickness absence and create a more healthy work environment

  • enhance safety and increase productivity

  • demonstrate commitment to your staff.

In addition to managing their own mental health, staff in schools must have an awareness of the mental health of children and young people. It is important to provide mental health training opportunities for teachers.

The link between stress and mental health

While stress is not a mental illness, many of the symptoms of stress and mild mental health conditions are similar. In addition, stress can exacerbate an existing mental health issue and affect a sufferer’s ability to cope, as it can with anyone.

It is important to train school leaders in the actions they can take to control stress in the workplace. Schools should have a clear stress at work policy in place.

What do you need to do?

  1. Draw up your mental health at work policy. Ideally this should be part of an overall wellbeing strategy.

  2. Combine this with an effective work/life balance policy and aim to provide the best working environment for the health and wellbeing of staff.

  3. Distribute guidance from the Guide to Mental Health to relevant members of the senior leadership team, ie Heads, Deputy Heads and assistants.

  4. Train members of the senior leadership team to spot the signs of staff having psychological or emotional difficulties and to know what help is available.

    One form of training for members of the senior leadership team and other members of staff could be as mental health first aiders. These people could also be trained to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic incident. The procedures they must follow should be clearly set out in the stress at work in schools policy.

  5. Promote awareness of mental health issues and create a culture where staff feel they can talk about their concerns.

    • Empower a “mental health champion” to build an open culture and destigmatise mental health issues, eg through awareness days, surveys, posters and talks.

    • Offer a range of options for support and ways that people can ask for help (members of the senior leadership team, HR person, mental health champion, mental health first aiders, EAP) so different people can be helped in different ways.

    • Communicate all these options to staff through as many different points and media as possible.

    • Furnish members of the senior leadership team and trained staff with clear information on how to respond (ie the options of where to refer staff, the policy on days off work, who they are allowed to discuss the member of staff with, etc).

  6. Communicate information to staff across the school about understanding and managing stress and create an awareness of the impact of stress on mental health in schools.

Detailed advice on mental health

The following topics offer in-depth advice and a variety of resources to help you manage mental health, stress and performance-related issues in schools.

Summary advice

These feature articles provide useful background information on the measures employers can take to deal with mental health issues potentially affecting their staff and pupils.

Last reviewed 8 February 2022