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Secondary school teachers’ experiences of supporting mental health

Lucas Shelemy (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Henley-on-Thames, UK)
Kate Harvey (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Henley-on-Thames, UK)
Polly Waite (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Henley-on-Thames, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 29 August 2019

Issue publication date: 12 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Teachers are often the first contact for students with mental health difficulties. They are in an ideal position to identify students who are struggling and frequently support them using different approaches and techniques. The purpose of this paper is to investigate secondary school teachers’ experiences of supporting the mental health of their students.

Design/methodology/approach

Seven secondary school teachers from state-funded schools in the UK participated in face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to understand and structure the data into themes.

Findings

Five superordinate themes emerged from the data analysis: perceived role of teacher, nature of relationship, barriers to helping the child, amount of training and resource, and helplessness and satisfaction. Participants described the lack of training, resource and clarity about their role to be causes of frustration. Internal and environmental factors often influenced participants’ feelings of helplessness.

Research limitations/implications

The findings from this study cannot be readily generalised to the wider population due to the nature of qualitative interviews.

Practical implications

This study has led to a greater understanding of the experiences of teachers within a school setting. It is crucial that mental health training for teachers directly meets their needs and abilities.

Originality/value

This paper finds value in recognising the lived experience and difficulties faced by teachers supporting students’ mental health problems. A theoretical model is presented based on this analysis that can help inform best practice for schools.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The PhD of the lead researcher is funded by The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity aiming to improve mental health in young people. The Trust had no involvement in the research process, from study design to submission. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this paper. The authors would like to thank the teachers who took part in this research for their help. The research materials can be accessed by contacting the corresponding author.

Citation

Shelemy, L., Harvey, K. and Waite, P. (2019), "Secondary school teachers’ experiences of supporting mental health", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 372-383. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-10-2018-0056

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited