This project builds on previous research funded by SPHR and aims to provide an understanding of how researchers could work with multi-academy school chains and groups of free schools to implement health interventions.
February 2018 - January 2019
April 2012 - May 2015
School staff, in particular teachers, are consistently shown to have increased risk of stress, depression and anxiety compared to the general working population. If left untreated, such mental health issues may lead to poor performance at work (presenteeism), sickness absence, and even ill health retirement.
Further, school staff report feeling ill-equipped to support vulnerable students, due to a lack of support for their own wellbeing, and a lack of training in mental health.
A small group of staff were trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), and went on to provide a confidential peer support service for colleagues to use at when stressed or distressed. The wider staff body were also provided with youth MHFA training to equip them to recognise signs of distress and provide initial support and help. The intervention was tested in an initial feasibility study in two schools and then rolled out to six further schools in a pilot study. Three schools received the intervention and three were a comparison group, outcomes were measured before the intervention and one year later.
The outcomes measured were staff wellbeing, depression, absence and presenteeism, and student wellbeing and mental health difficulties (years 8 and 9). Interviews and focus groups with staff and observations of the training sessions were also carried out. Staff found the training useful and relevant. The peer support service was reported to be very helpful to a number of individuals, although it was suggested that greater promotion, clear support from senior leaders and a larger number of peer supporters would increase service use.
Students in the intervention schools had better wellbeing and lower mental health difficulties at follow up, compared to the comparison group. There were no large differences between intervention and comparison groups for staff outcomes, but this may have been because this was a pilot study with a small sample.
The pilot study findings suggest that the intervention has the potential to improve school staff mental health, and student mental health via enhanced skills among staff.
SPHR final report: Improving mental health support for school staff
Kidger J, Evans R, Tilling K, Hollingworth W, Campbell R, Ford T, Murphy S, Araya R, Morris R, Kadir B, Moure Fernandez A, Bell S, Harding S, Brockman R, Grey J, Gunnell D. Protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial of an intervention to improve the mental health support and training available to secondary school teachers – the WISE (Wellbeing in Secondary Education) study. BMC Public Health 2016 16:1089.
Kidger J, Stone T, Tilling K, Brockman R, Campbell R, Ford T, Hollingworth W, King M, Araya R, Gunnell D. (2016) A pilot cluster randomised controlled trial of a support and training intervention to improve the mental health of secondary school teachers and students – the WISE (Wellbeing in Secondary Education) study). BMC Public Health 16: 1060.
Kidger J, Brockman R, Tilling K, Campbell R, Ford T, Araya R, King M, Gunnell D. Teachers’ wellbeing and depressive symptoms, and associated risk factors: a large cross sectional study in English secondary schools. Journal of Affective Disorders 192 (2016) 76-82.
SPHR Public Health Evidence Briefing: School Mental Health First Aid
SPHR project poster: Improving the mental health of teachers
The WISE Project – Wellbeing in Secondary Education. Summary of findings from the pilot study