For many years, schools have continued to play an invaluable role in mental health in children. In a recent report by the Children’s Society, The Good Childhood Report 2012, it was discovered that a large number of children view school as being central to their overall well-being. Environment satisfaction, teacher and pupil relationships, and learning and work at school were all identified as key components of a child’s well-being.
Today, in a large number of schools across the UK, mental health is a very prominent part of a child’s early and ongoing education. However, like many areas of mental health education and the development of services, the journey to reach today’s level of awareness and action in schools has been a long one.
Mental Health Legislation for Children
The legislation surrounding mental health in schools and for children is the accumulation of more than three decades of laws. In recent history, the laws and policy surrounding mental health in children and schools begins with the Mental Health Act 1983, which was amended in 2007. In conjunction with the Mental Health Act 2007, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Children Act 1989, Children Act 2004, and the Human Rights Act 1998 all help to build the legislation for child mental health.
In accordance to the Mental Health Act 1983: Code of Practice, produced by the Department of Health, all children should be granted the right to be educated on mental health to the same level, with the provision of mental health services that are appropriate to a child’s age. Schools have also been given a number of responsibilities for the mental health of children under their care. This includes considering the best interests of children, ensuring the safety of children, and acting when a welfare concern has been identified.
The Growing Role of Mental Health in Schools
In 1995, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), begin work on their four-tier system for mental health services. In the first tier, schools were highlighted as one of the main agencies for early intervention, prevention, treatment, and advice on mental health. Through CAMHS, schools can refer children with mental health concerns to specialists within the spectrum of services that the NHS provides.
Through the 1990’s and 2000’s, schools were identified as areas where children could receive support for mental health issues, but it’s only in very recent years that the initiatives and policies have been greatly promoted. Many of these that relate to children and adolescents have been centred around better access to mental health support at school.
The No Health without Mental Health strategy, produced in 2011, and the Closing the Gap: Priorities for Essential Change in Mental Health report, published in 2014, are two examples of recent reports that address the role of mental health in schools. The No Health without Mental Health strategy focuses on how schools and other bodies can promote well-being, whilst the Closing the Gap report looks at how schools can get additional support in identifying mental health concerns.