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 as an employer?

  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 the Briefing on Mental Health at Work guidance 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.

  • Directors Briefing — Mental health at work. Senior leaders have a key role to play in ensuring that their organisations do not discriminate against workers who may have mental ill-health issues.

  • Mental health — from surviving to thriving. Most of us are aware of the importance of good mental health and of supporting those struggling with mental ill health. There is much that employers can do in the workplace.

  • Stress, mental health and mobile technology. Mobile technology has transformed how we work and undoubtedly improved it in terms of communication, efficiency and flexibility. But there’s a chance that all this progress is to the detriment of our health.

  • When reporting stress at work is too stressful. Is reporting stress and anxiety about work inevitably going to be seen as an admission that your job is not the right one for you?

  • How to administer psychological first aid. The six essential steps to providing support after a traumatic incident.

  • Mental health, discipline and dismissal. Mental health is not a straighforward issue for employers. They may be the last to find out there’s a problem and yet the mental health issues of staff can have a very significant impact on the work of the individuals concerned.

Useful Q&As

  • Supporting staff with mental health issues. Q : Our Deputy Head has been absent all term after being diagnosed with depression and we are now working to support his return to school. Following our colleague’s diagnosis, several other members of staff have come forward to say that they felt unwell or were on medication. How can we support these colleagues?

  • In-school counselling services. Q: A parent has contacted us regarding the availability of counselling in school. We are a small school and currently do not offer this to our pupils. Are we required to do so?

  • Promoting positive mental health. Q: I have been asked to provide a brief on how we can improve the promotion of mental health issues. Could you advise me on what we could do?

  • Wellness and recovery action plans. Q: An employee has been diagnosed with a mental health illness. It has been suggested that we can develop a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan with the employee to assist them at work. What is this?


Health Assured

If you need help on mental health and wellbeing issues, Health Assured offer the most comprehensive employee assistance programme (EAP) available today.

Health Assured is the UK’s leading employee assistance programme and wellbeing services provider. Their specialist service supports 9 million lives throughout the UK, delivering 129,00 counselling sessions and handling over 300,000 calls each year.

Health Assured’s high quality counselling and specialist work-life support is delivered through an in-house team of 60 BACP accredited counsellors, supported by a network of over 1,650 active counsellors across the UK, with access to a further 4,500 BACP counsellors.


Last reviewed 10 December 2019