Enhancing mental health literacy in schools through staff training: An integrative review
Students who are not well cannot learn. As the prevalence of adolescent anxiety, depression, and behavioural dissorders continues to rise, it is important to identify children who suffer silently, as these disorders can have negative effects on academic performance and absenteeism. While the school nurse and social worker are important resources, it is teachers that have the most access to students. However, the literature shows that staff members often feel they lack training, competency and readiness in identifying and referring students in need. This integrative review examines not only the need for training, but the methods being employed worldwide. While the methods differ in format, all seven intervention studies indicate positive reception by staff members and the majority show improvement of staff knowledge and attitudes, which creates a greater chance of intervention and improved outcomes for students.
Everyday in schools students complain of headaches, stomachaches, nausea and fatigue. Many staff members, including school nurses, may dismiss these complaints as unfounded and nuisance visits, as these are symptoms that cannot necessarily be proven. However, Maughan (2018) found that approximately one third of all visits to the health office are related to mental health issues. These symptoms may be physical manifestations of mental and psychological issues which the student may not understand (Maughan, 2018). When these visits are dismissed as ‘frequent flyers’ or ‘attention seekers’ a larger problem may be masked leading to potential crisis and diminished academic achievement (Frauenholtz et al, 2017). When a student is not in class opportunities for learning are missed, creating a potential for negative impact on academic performance (Maughan, 2018). However, when problems are recognised by school staff, there is an increased chance of referral and treatment. Green et al (2016) found having a mental health referral within the school setting substantially improved absenteeism, which in turn had a positive effect on academic performance.
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