The whole school approach to mental health has provided guidance to many schools in the UK that are shifting the focus of their school environments towards positive mental health awareness. The approach involves participation at every level to create great provision for mental health support and whole school awareness of the importance of mental health and speaking out about problems.
Rolling out such an extensive change to the structure of a school and implementing other key changes to mental health education takes a great level of commitment, but before any changes can be made, it’s down to school leaders to kick-start the action and ensure the success of new school policies.
It’s often said that leaders are people who empower others, and when it comes to the ways that leadership style can impact mental health in schools, this couldn’t be more relevant…
The Responsibilities of Leaders in Schools
The role of schools in mental health education presents school leaders with a collection of responsibilities. As outlined in the Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools report, schools must: prevent, identify, provide early support, and make referrals in regards to mental health. In the same report, the benefit of creating the right school culture and environment, where the whole school and wider community is involved, is also stressed.
The recovery approach to mental health, which focuses on control and leading a meaningful life, is also an important consideration for leaders. Through the recovery approach, recovery support and resilience are two important factors, as well as social inclusion, commitment, and positive attitude. In order for a leader to create an environment that’s positive for mental health, they must utilise a style of leadership that supports these goals.
Leadership Style and Mental Health
While there are many styles of leadership, there are two models in particular that demonstrate how leadership style can positively influence the effectiveness of mental health in schools: instructional and engaging.
– Instructional Leadership
Instructional leadership practices have a strong focus on the creation of educational goals, teacher evaluation and planning. Many of the strengths of instructional leadership, such as systematic student progress monitoring, the establishment of a collective responsibility for the well-being of students and ready discussion of alternative teaching practices, can deliver a positive influence on mental health. In a report on instructional leadership and well-being by Professor Lea Waters, it was concluded that instructional leadership could help with successful student well-being, as well as academic success.
– Engaging Leadership
Engaging leadership is a style that’s often associated with improved well-being and positivity, with an engaging leader being ready to embrace change, improve motivation and keep achievement high even with less resources. The style has been closely linked to the recovery approach to mental health, as the leadership style has many characteristics in common with the guiding principles for recovery. The style and the approach both put a large value on positivity and aspirations. Visions are also a key part of engagement leadership and mental health recovery, which is beneficial for long-term plans for environmental change.