What is early intervention?

Early intervention is a school-based mental health promotion, prevention and support programme. The aim of early intervention is to reduce the risk of young people developing mental health problems and to improve school mental health and wellbeing.

Early intervention programmes for mental health are delivered by school staff, including teachers, school counsellors and wellbeing practitioners. Early intervention programmes typically involve whole-school approaches, as well as targeted support for individual students and their families.

Early intervention programmes for mental health are based on the principle that it is better to prevent mental health problems from developing than it is to treat them once they have developed. Early intervention programmes are effective in reducing the incidence of mental health problems, and in improving school mental health and wellbeing.

There is evidence that early intervention programmes can reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression and conduct disorders, and can improve school attendance and academic achievement.

Early intervention programmes for mental health are most effective when they are implemented early (before problems develop), are comprehensive (involving a range of initiatives), and are delivered by skilled and trained staff that can focus on school mental health and wellbeing. Providing early prevention is an important part of supporting young people to thrive at school and in life.

Why are early intervention for mental health programmes important for schools?

For several years the state of young people’s mental health problems has been referred to as a ticking time bomb. In 2004 1 in 10 UK children and young people aged 5 - 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder - that is around three children in every class (Green, et al., 2005). This figure, has now increased to 1 in 6, due to the negative impact the pandemic has had on the wellbeing of children and young people.

At Worth-it we believe that preventing mental health problems at earlier stages is a key priority for mental health and wellbeing. An approach which is recognised in the Government Green Paper on children and young people's mental health as critical to the transformation of Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services.

As part of these recommendations, schools are being encouraged by the government to take responsibility to raise awareness of mental health problems and are also best placed to spot the signs of mental health problems in young people. For example in the East Midlands (where we are based) schools are the second largest refer to CAMHS after GP’s. Where only 1-3% of young people gain access to services.

As schools are highly influential in the development of young people, they are an ideal place to develop resilience and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. The government are now supporting all schools to appoint a Senior Mental Health Lead to oversee the development of a whole-school approach to wellbeing and mental health.

To support that the Government are providing schools with training grants to cover the cost of training an SMHL which have been issued since September 2021. Find out how to can gain this funding by accessing our funding webinar.

So how do early intervention programmes help school mental health leads, develop mental health and wellbeing?

Positive Education for early intervention and prevention of mental health problems in schools

At Worth-It we specialise in using Positive Education to provide evidence-based early intervention and prevent mental health problems in young people. Positive education takes the main principles of positive psychology and implements them into the education system through evidence based coaching. This practical approach helps young people overcome barriers to learning and achieve more. It is a powerful intervention which helps young people build resilience and learn skills to improve their mental wellbeing, whilst providing a safe and supportive environment to help nurture the young adult throughout their school lives and beyond.

Our early intervention programmes integrate coaching psychology and positive psychology to provide a holistic approach to improving wellbeing, including targeted interventions to build resilience and improve the mental wellbeing of young people and those at risk of developing mental health problems.

Reducing teenage depression, anxiety and stress at school

School is a big part of a teenager’s life and not being able to cope at school will have a huge impact. In addition, disadvantaged young people face barriers to learning which may include poor parenting, limited access to language, poor literacy levels, poor attendance, low aspirations, low expectations and narrow experience of life outside of school.

Early intervention to reduce mental health problems

We work directly with young people who may be struggling with these barriers through the targeted interventions bases on positive psychology and coaching.

The graph below shows a cohort of 252 young people aged 13-17 who have completed our group or one to one programmes. The measurement uses the DASS21 which measures levels of Depression, Anxiety and Stress before and after the interventions they have completed. The graph clearly shows a large reduction in levels of Depression, Anxiety and Stress for these young people

Coaching young people for wellbeing and resilience

Resilience coaching offers one to one mental health support sessions for young people aged 13+ in order to build their resilience and overall mental wellbeing. Sessions with a trained and experienced coach encourage and support young people to increase self-awareness, develop positive coping strategies, build resilience and effectively manage change and additional pressures. They also help young people to engage in positive activities and increases levels of confidence.

All our targeted coaching programmes have been a huge success in helping ‘at risk’ vulnerable young people build resilience. One of the huge benefits of our coaching support is that it has proven to decrease symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.

We also offer training for teachers and practitioners who want to learn how to coach young people to develop wellbeing and resilience. We also provide information about our approach to coaching young people and the benefits it can have in our Coaching Young People webinar series.

Peer to peer support for early prevention of mental health

Our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme trains young people to provide peer mentoring and support to their peers to develop wellbeing and resilience. Our programme provides online training to programme facilitators from your school. This is supported with a Wellbeing Ambassadors Workshop toolkit which enables schools to run a peer-to-peer support service over 3 academic years.

Wellbeing and resilience workshops

We develop and deliver motivating and engaging workshops on resilience and wellbeing for pupils. These include wellbeing workshops in primary schools, workshops, presentations and training days in secondary schools. The aim of the workshops is to introduce strategies and resources that help pupils develop their own wellbeing and resilience, ‘planting the seed’ of resilience and self-help.

Training for Senior Mental Health Leads to support early prevention

The the most effective ways to support the prevention of mental health problems is to develop a whole school approach. Developing an embedded whole school approach is a way all pupils can benefit from increased levels of wellbeing and resilience.

Developing whole school wellbeing reduces the amount of young people who need to seek support for mental health problems as many issues are prevented from escalating or 'nipped in the bud'. A more proactive and less reactive approach also increases capacity for mental health leads and pastoral teams to support more young people that have a greater need. As many of the lesser issues are dealt with earlier freeing up time and resources, while also having a positive impact to staff workload and organisational capacity.

To find out more about our whole school approach access this free discovery workshop HERE.

Benefits of improving the mental health of students in schools

Our programmes not only improve mental health, they also develop essential components of resilience and wellbeing, including student’s emotional literacy, communication skills, relationships, and thinking skills. This is increasingly important in preparing for transitions, exams and making important decisions. Other positive results include improved behaviour and conduct.

Schools see multiple benefits by adopting this approach. Improvement in young people's wellbeing is associated with increased engagement in learning and attainment, and as young people become more resilient and self-reliant become less dependent on school support, freeing up staff capacity.

Early intervention for school mental health

We have been running early intervention programmes with great success for 12 years, supporting 1000s of young people and 100s of schools improve wellbeing and resilience.

Schools we work with integrate our programmes into a range of services that support student’s mental health, this is seen as best practice by the Department for Education and Ofsted. Find out more by accessing our free discovery workshop.

We’re here to help!

We've developed our toolkits of resources and early intervention training into our Wellbeing Club. Joining will provide you with teaching and learning tools, activities, and training on how to develop your own programme of targeted intervention and prevention in your school or college. Find out how you can access funding to join our Wellbeing Club by accessing our FREE funding information session.

If you need support ideas and encouragement to develop early prevention join our Facebook community of hundreds of SMHLs.

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