Book Review: The Designated Mental Health Lead Planner

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Designated Mental Health Lead Planner by Clare Erasmus published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

The Designated Mental Health Lead  (DMHL) is a fairly new role in the educational landscape. It began life in a government green paper in 2017, with a bold declaration of intent: every school and college to have a Designated Mental Health Lead by 2025. 

Most recently, the Department of Education has announced upcoming funding for Mental Health Lead Training accompanied by a Learning Outcomes Document. This round has “sufficient funding” for ⅓ of all state schools to train one senior member of the school staff, at £1,200 (ish) per school.

Further details are promised for this September i.e. very very soon indeed. 

In the meantime, funding or no funding, many schools have made the decision to invest in mental health, as shown by the growing numbers of wellbeing accreditations available. I was curious to see how many schools already have a DMHL, and a quick, statistically completely unreliable, Twitter poll (I know, I know) suggests that in the region of 50% of schools may have already appointed a DMHL, well ahead of time.

Anyway, on to the book. Clare Erasmus is a familiar voice in the mental health and wellbeing space on edutwitter, and has already written The Mental Health and Wellbeing Handbook for Schools: Transforming Mental Health Support on a Budget. She is also a DMHL herself, so she has a wealth of experience in this area to draw on.

The book opens with some background and context about the role, before launching into the “Briefs” section.

These are extremely useful briefings on aspects of the role. The first of these is on staff wellbeing, much to my delight. Clare here has put together some very clear and usable briefs to bring any new DMHL up to speed. The briefs are indeed brief – 2 or 3 pages at the most, and cover all aspects of the role.

After that, you get the planner bit, as advertised. The entire year is mapped out using the UK school year as its model.

For each week, there is a suggested planning framework, with a weekly purpose, goals linked to the purpose, a space for structured reflection and a summary. The purpose is often linked to an event, such as Anti-bullying week. The rationale behind the purpose and the goals is neatly summed up in the summary. Each week appears across a 2-page spread.

Clare works in a secondary school, but these plans are written to be adaptable to most contexts, and would certainly work in primary, in my view. One feature I would have liked to see would be some way for readers to download the planners so that they could easily customise the plans and share them across a school network.

The final sections of the book are really excellent, and packed full of useful information; a well-constructed reading list, and appendices covering staff training, as well as practical information to inform and support the whole school community.

To sum up, this book is a great investment for a new or experienced DMHL; it is packed with useful information and will support you throughout the year.