Book Review: Positive Mental Health: A Whole School Approach

Positive Mental Health: A Whole School Approach by  Jonathan Glazzard and Rachel Bostwick

Publisher; Critical Publishing Ltd

10% of children have a diagnosable mental health issue. Let that sink in for a minute. 10%. Here’s another static to give you pause; 75% of all mental health illness begins before the age of 18. These two sobering statistics from the DfE, quoted in this book, make it clear that schools are crucial in identifying and supporting mental health needs in their pupils. There is an inherent problem in this situation, which this book does not shy away from. School staff are not trained mental health professionals. What this book aims to do is give teachers and leaders the skills and confidence to create a positive mental health culture, as well as the tools to identify and support those who have mental health needs.

Mental health in schools is certainly high on the agenda at the moment: the first line of the executive summary of the government’s response to the consultation on last year’s green paper states (and I quote) “Children and young people’s mental health is a priority area for this Government. “[1] With that in mind, this book is a timely publication for schools who are looking for guidance in developing their mental health provision. In fact, the momentum in the school mental health world is such that events have already overtaken the content on some issues. For example, the book advocates for schools to develop their own mental health curriculum, but given the government announcement in July that there will be a  national framework in place by 2020, it’s unlikely that schools will want to spend time on developing their own.

The text is designed to be “concise… for busy teachers and school leaders”. This point is important because, in the context of all the other things school staff have to do, adding deep and extended reading around mental health is not really practical in many circumstances. What this book does well is to signpost and summarise the most relevant research, leaving the reader the option of chasing up the research themselves if they want to find out more.

Each chapter is prefaced with links to relevant professional documents (such as the Teachers Standards and Keeping Children Safe in Education), and begins with a set of objectives, followed by a brief introduction. Critical questions are dotted throughout the text, inviting the reader to examine their own opinions and experience of mental health in the context of school provision. Research and statistics sections are clearly highlighted, making it easy to digest the relevant information. Case studies are also used to give some practical examples of how action can be taken in the school context. Where it is appropriate, separate sections are devoted to primary and secondary. At the end of each chapter a summary and a checklist serve as a reminder of the ground covered, and further reading is suggested. This common sense, practical approach also makes it highly suitable for use as the basis of an INSET session for staff.

The intent is not to provide a detailed description of all the mental health issues that staff may come across, nor to give comprehensive guidance on how best to support them. There are two other books in the series which deal specifically with meeting mental health needs in primary and secondary pupils, and will give more depth in that area.

Rather, it is a general guide, examining how to create a positive mental health culture for staff and pupils, and the tools available to identify those who may need an intervention. It would make a useful addition to any school’s CPD library. The authors both work at the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, at Leeds Beckett University, which leads innovation in the area.

[1] Department for Education. 2018. Government Response to the Consultation on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and Next Steps. [ONLINE] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/728892/government-response-to-consultation-on-transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health.pdf.  [Accessed 4 September 2018].

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