Good mental health and wellbeing is essential for school students. It helps them to learn effectively, cope with day-to-day challenges, and develop into resilient young adults. There are a number of things that schools can do to support the mental health and wellbeing of their students. For example, they can provide information and resources on coping with stress, anxiety, and depression.  they can effectively teach wellbeing strategies and create safe and supportive environments where students feel comfortable discussing their mental health and how to support wellbeing.

Additionally, schools can promote positive thinking and resilience by teaching strategies for positive mental health and wellbeing include the ability to ask for help as well as accept support from others. This is combined with many personal resources that include using helpful thinking, having a positive outlook, being resilient during challenging times emotional awareness and having self-confidence.

As is now well known, there has been an increased focus on raising the awareness of mental health and making it more ‘acceptable’ for individuals to seek help and gain access to support earlier. 

Quite rightly, campaigns like Children’s Mental Health Week and Mental Health Awareness Day have helped to reduce the negative stigma that once shrouded mental illness. Thankfully, more children, young people, and adults are now finding the help that they need.

Long may these campaigns continue, and although the future is bright, there is much more that can be done to help individuals feel more comfortable talking about mental health and be part of day-to-day conversations. 

How to Improve Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools

Schools are best placed to spot the early signs of poor mental health and emotional wellbeing and changes to the Ofsted common inspection framework in 2019 included the emotional and mental wellbeing of students – for schools to achieve good or outstanding status pupils must learn about emotional and mental health and be able to make informed choices regarding their emotional and mental wellbeing.

A recently published longitudinal study of over 8000 students in 84 UK Secondary schools evidenced that

"Better student-rated school climate, at the student and school level was associated with lower risk of depression, fewer social-emotional-behavioral difficulties and higher wellbeing [in young people]"Hinze,, (2023)

This new research demonstrates that positive relationships an integral part of developing school climate are essential to not only promote wellbeing but also protect against the onset of mental health problems developing in young people.

Positive relationships are essential for young people's mental health at school and are integral to any whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

"Our findings suggest that schools could enhance the mental health of young people through creating a school climate that students view as positive, including positive peer relationships, caring and respectful adults, and effective school leadership and involvement." Hinze,, (2023)

One of the first things to establish when developing mental health in your school and developing a supportive climate is to develop a shared and understood language for mental health and wellbeing.

What is Mental Health?

Confusingly term mental health is often thought to mean mental health problems, mental-ill health or a lack of health rather than the presence of strategies for mental health and wellbeing. There is a common misconception that reducing illbeing automatically improves wellbeing it doesn't, wellbeing and ill-being operate on two separate but interrelated spectrums.

At Worth-it, when we refer to mental health we define that as the ability to have positive mental health and increase capacities for personal levels of wellbeing, which enable children to flourish in life.

Developing mental health in children and young people is about supporting them to be self-aware enough to find wellbeing strategies that help them develop positive mental health, these strategies fall into six pathways as identified by the SEARCH Framework for Wellbeing.

We support schools to increase strategies for wellbeing within individual children and young people and as a whole school which supports all pupils move towards flourishing.

Lack of Strategies for Positive Mental Health

Unfortunately, many children and young people do not know how to develop wellbeing and they have no or few strategies for positive mental health. This is known as languishing.

Anyone who could be classified as languishing at risk of developing mental health problems due to a lack of strategies to be able to increase their own wellbeing or seek and access support from others.

Why is more mental health support is required for children and young people in schools?

This lack of strategies for mental health has been exacerbated by COVID-19, time away from school and lockdowns making mental health problems significantly rise in children and young people from 1-10 in to 1-6 in 2020. Referral's to CAMHS are at an all time high with over 90,000 children and young people being referred in March 22.

Schools regularly report to us on a regular basis that they think mental health issues in students are getting worse especially when they reach the crucial exam years.

In addition to this we have seen in the news that mental health care is failing those who need it most and a report by NHS England has shown that many of these young people with mental health issues being referred receive no help at all.

Leading to negative future outcomes for many children and young people, childhood mental health problems increase the probability of mental illness in adolescence and then adulthood.

But in order to reduce mental health issues must support the promotion of strategies for mental health and wellbeing, moving children and young people away from languishing and towards flourishing. The earlier this is done the better for prevention and improved prospects for the future generations of children and young people.

The best place to do this is schools as most children spend most of their time at school. Schools can act not only as a protective factor to prevent the onset of mental health problems, they can also become a wellbeing intervention by embedding a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

What is wellbeing in schools?

School wellbeing is often overlooked but it's crucial for teachers and students. It's been shown to have a positive effect on school climate, student achievement, school outcomes and teacher retention rates.

There are many factors that contribute to school wellbeing, but some of the most important are school culture, teacher support, and student engagement and achievement.

A school with a positive culture creates an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Teachers who feel supported by their colleagues and administration are more likely to be engaged in their work and create positive relationships with their students.

Finally, students who feel connected to their school and classmates are more likely to be engaged in learning and thrive academically. When all three of these factors are present, it creates a school environment that supports the mental health and wellbeing of everyone involved.

Senior Mental Health Leads Role in Developing School Mental Health and Wellbeing

To enable schools to feel more equipped to support pupils with their mental health and wellbeing. Department for Education have advised all schools to appoint a Senior Mental Health Lead (SMHL) by 2025. Their role is to lead a strategic approach o developing mental health and wellbeing. The DfE are recognising the importance in not only schools' role in the ability to identify mental health issues earlier and increase access to support but also the benefits that improving mental health has on learning and achievement at school, which in turn impacts wellbeing.

This new role is being supported by a £1200 training grant. This role and funding is so all eligible schools can support their mental health lead to understand how to develop a whole-school approach to mental health that benefits all pupils. Helping the develop positive behaviours for learning and support the reduction in the onset of mental health problems by moving more children towards flourishing.

With the correct support, knowledge and training schools can learn the techniques to identify a lack of strategies for mental health and in turn provide languishing children young people with the tools to raise their mental wellbeing through building resilience and promote resources that build positive mental health and wellbeing.

This is where Worth-it can help…

Improving School Mental Health and Wellbeing Through Positive Education

Positive Education is applied Positive Psychology within educational settings. Positive Education takes proven evidence-based strategies that develop positive mental health and wellbeing and move children and young people away from languishing and towards flourishing.

An essential part of flourishing is helping children and young people develop personal wellbeing resources that support children to flourish. Doing so will support children and young people to increase –

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-reliance
  • Flexible and accurate thinking
  • Ability to focus
  • Positive and optimistic outlook
  • Positive view of self & others
  • Ability to action plan, set and achieve goals
  • Development of positive coping strategies
  • Ability to be resilient during challenging situations
  • Decision making
  • Developing positive relationships
  • Impulse control and self-regulation
  • Emotional literacy and communication

It is clear that developing these strategies for wellbeing not only help support children or young people who are languishing, increasing them will also help prevent mental health problems from developing. They are also teachable and learnable and can be developed through whole school approaches to wellbeing.

Wellbeing in Schools - Framework for Learning Skills for Wellbeing

We have been supporting 100s of schools and 1000s of children and young to develop strategies for wellbeing for 10 years. At the same time the research and evidence around Positive Education has also been growing and evolving.

In 2019 we were looking for a way to organise many of the strategies for promoting positive mental health and wellbeing we were using in our work with schools. We discovered and were given permission to use the SEARCH framework by Waters and Loton (2019).

The SEARCH Pathways to wellbeing are-

  • Strengths
  • Emotional Management
  • Attention and Awareness
  • Relationships
  • Coping and Resilience
  • Habits and Goals

SEARCH is a wonderful research-based Positive Education framework that helps schools to develop interventions, whole-school wellbeing and wellbeing curriculum. This means wellbeing can be consistently applied within a school and all children and young people can be supported to move towards flourishing and reducing the impact of mental health problems.

How we can help your school mental health and wellbeing

Here at Worth-it, we are committed to helping schools develop the SEARCH pathways in a way that suits the needs of their pupils, staff and whole school community We have developed the SEARCH framework into a toolkit of curriculum resources and training that can be used in lessons or pastorally. The SEARCH pathways also underpin our DfE Assured Programme for mental health leads Wellbeing Club which is eligible for the DfE training grant for SMHLs.

If you're not sure where to start or how to develop the wellbeing of your pupils you may find our FREE downloadable workshop helpful.


Hinze,, (2023) Student- and School-Level Factors Associated With Mental Health and Well-Being in Early Adolescence, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Waters, L., & Loton, D.J. (2019). SEARCH: A Meta-Framework and Review of the Field of Positive Education. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 4, 1 - 46.

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