You may be asking yourself, does my school have to have a mental health lead? The question really is, why wouldn’t you have one? Many schools already have a mental health lead in place but for those who don’t it’s never too late and your pupils, students and staff will all benefit from a coordinated approach to supporting mental health. 

It is not a statutory requirement for schools to have a mental health lead, but it strongly recommended by both the Department for Education and the Department of Health, and the government would like every school to have a Senior Mental Health Lead (SMHL) in place by 2025.

NICE guidelines for social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing(3) have recently been updated and also recommend that schools appoint a lead person for mental wellbeing and they should be

'in a leadership post who has strategic responsibilities and oversight of social, emotional and mental wellbeing across the school.'

Why is it important for schools to have a mental health lead?

We know that half of all mental health conditions are established before the age of fourteen and we know that early intervention can prevent problems escalating and have major societal benefits (1); the role of a mental health lead in schools is a vital one to ensure our children and young people are given the best possible start, that their wellbeing is supported and they are provided with strategies to support positive mental health for life. And what better place to provide this support than a school, a place where young people go every day and where trained staff can look out for them and support them?

Not all families are equipped to provide the support their child needs and waiting lists for external services are becoming so long that vulnerable young people’s mental health can be deteriorating while they’re waiting for a referral.

‘A whole school approach, with commitment from senior leadership and supported by external expertise, is essential to the success of schools in tackling mental health.’(1) 

The Department for Education (DfE) is offering a £1,200 grant for a senior member of school or college staff to access quality assured training to implement an effective whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing in your setting. Grants of £1,200 are now available to eligible state schools and colleges in England. 

You must use the grant to cover or contribute to a quality assured course (such as our SMHL training course that is free if you join Wellbeing Club) as well as to hire supply staff while leads are participating in training.

Traditionally schools might have been purely about academic achievements, but people are waking up to the fact that there is a bigger role to play, that children and young people need supporting to deal with the varying challenges that life throws at them.

Academia is one of these challenges with exam pressures causing stress and anxiety for some – it’s important for young people to learn ways of coping with these pressures that will generally only become greater in the ‘real world’ when they leave education and have the responsibilities of adulthood upon their shoulders.

Increasing school capacity to provide mental health support

There are groups of children and young people who might already be taking on these responsibilities, such as young carers. Identifying at risk cohorts of pupils and students and overseeing a range of early mental health support is part of the role of a mental health lead. At Worth-it we are passionate about supporting the wellbeing and promoting the positive mental health of at-risk individuals and all children and young people through a universal whole school approach. By supporting young people to recognise their strengths and develop their own wellbeing toolkit you can reduce the risk of mental illness now and later in life.

What are the duties of a mental health lead?

The role and remit of the mental health lead are not clear cut or the same in every school; each school will have their own way of establishing the role of the school mental health lead. For more detail about the role of the senior mental health lead review our SMHL job description. The Senior Mental Health lead's role is intended to be a strategic leadership role, with oversight of the whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing in their setting.

Research indicates that taking a coordinated and evidence-informed approach to mental health and wellbeing leads to improved emotional health and wellbeing in children and young people, and greater readiness to learn. Schools and colleges which have taken this approach often report improved attendance, attention, behaviour and attainment. (2)

For more information and guidance on the role of a mental health lead, check out our SMHL training and resources page. And if you’re looking for more information on DfE funded training for mental health leads, our online information session is a great place to start.


  1. Transforming CYP Mental Health Provision access here

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