Jenny Hulme The School of Wellbeing

Jessica Kingsley, 2017, ISBN 978-1-78592-096-7

The statistics about children's and young people's mental health in the UK are alarming. Huge numbers suffer and do not get the help they need. Poor mental health is devastating in all sorts of ways. It profoundly affects the ability to focus and learn. The negative effects of childhood mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can last into adulthood. More and more schools now recognise that they have a role and a responsibility in relation to the well-being of their students, but many are far from sure about appropriate policies and practices. This book provides a wealth of valuable ideas and practical tips, plus links to sources of further help. The focus is on promoting health and emotional well-being: prevention rather than treatment.

Many different mental health problems are referenced, among them depression, anxiety, low self-confidence and low self-esteem, eating disorders, self-harm, the impact of bullying. A wide variety of school projects designed to support well-being are explored, including student mentoring, mindfulness, anti-bullying strategies, school-based counsellors, support for families, effective PSHE lessons, trained role models, Lego play therapy. All have proved transformative. Pupils become happier, less fearful, more confident, more positive, more resilient, more able to learn and make progress. Communication, behaviour and relationships improve.

Interviews with headteachers (both primary and secondary) inform the book throughout, interspersed with viewpoints from other experts. Important strands emerge from the case studies. Schools must prioritise well-being, and make tackling mental health problems part of the school culture. There are no quick fixes, but lots of helpful schemes are available. The leadership team must give their full backing and support, and provide staff time and training. Pupils must be listened to and valued, as must their parents and carers.

Jargon-free, easy to read and well indexed, this book is inspiring and empowering.