Supporting the mental health needs of young people: the spatial practices of school nurses

Sarah Grace Sherwin (Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Publication date: 18 March 2019



The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness of an understanding of how school nurses work in multiple spaces, supporting young people in relation to promoting and protecting their emotional and mental health and wellbeing. It is argued that young people’s emotional health needs are still as prevalent today as they were over 150 years ago, when Charles Dickens wrote about them in the novel Nicholas Nickleby.


Soja’s (1996) typology of spatial practice is applied to school nursing practice in an attempt to explore how different types of space influence how support is given to young people.


Examples are provided from previous research (Sherwin, 2016) of how Soja’s theory of Firstspace, Secondspace and Thirdspace can be identified within school nurses’ practice, thereby providing an understanding of how school nurses provide support to young people on an everyday basis. It is proposed that in an addition Fourthspace also exists and a new conceptual model of spatial practice is proposed.


School nurses have the potential to make a significant impact on preventing and protecting young people’s mental health. They provide valuable support to young people to enable them to cope with the complexities of their lives, yet relatively little is known about their everyday practice as this is an under-reported area of nursing. A new conceptual model is proposed to help provide an understanding of their practice.



Sherwin, S. (2019), "Supporting the mental health needs of young people: the spatial practices of school nurses", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 17-25.

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