Promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges

Find out what help you can get to develop a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Applies to England

The importance of good mental health in schools and colleges

Good mental health and wellbeing helps children and young people:

  • develop
  • attend school
  • engage in learning
  • fulfil their potential

Schools and colleges contribute to wellbeing by providing:

  • a safe, calm and supportive learning environment
  • early targeted support for pupils and learners who need help

Embedding an evidence-based, holistic, whole school or college approach helps achieve this.

Schools and colleges should identify and train a mental health lead. The mental health lead should be a member of staff empowered to develop and oversee their setting’s whole school or college approach.

Principles of a whole school or college approach

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities published guidance on the 8 key principles of a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. These are:

  • an ethos and environment that promotes respect, and values diversity
  • leadership and management that supports and champions efforts to promote emotional health and wellbeing
  • staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of pupils and learners
  • curriculum teaching and learning to promote resilience and support social and emotional learning
  • enabling student voice to influence decisions
  • identifying the need for and monitoring the impact of interventions
  • targeted support and appropriate referral
  • working with parents and carers

Senior mental health lead training  

Senior mental health leads oversee the development and embedding of the 8 key principles in their setting.

DfE is offering a grant of £1,200 for eligible state-funded schools and colleges in England to train a mental health lead to help develop and implement a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Senior mental health lead training provides more information.

Mental health support teams   

Mental health support teams (MHSTs) provide additional capacity for early support and meeting the mental health needs of children and young people in primary, secondary and further education settings. They have 3 core functions:

  • deliver evidence-based interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues
  • help mental health leads develop and introduce a whole school or college approach
  • give timely advice to school and college staff, and liaise with external specialist services, to help children and young people get the right support and stay in education

MHSTs are a new workforce of educational mental health practitioners. They work alongside senior clinicians, therapists and other professionals. They integrate with existing mental health and wellbeing support in and around schools and colleges provided by:

The NHS website provides more information.

Resources for planning and implementing a whole school or college approach

The links to tools and resources provided on this page can help a school or college to develop their mental health and wellbeing provision. DfE does not fund or endorse these resources, unless otherwise stated:

  • mental health lead resource hub has been developed by DfE in collaboration with education representatives and mental health experts to help mental health leads in their role. It includes evidence-based practical resources and tools to help schools and colleges review, develop and implement their approach
  • mental health and wellbeing list of resources (PDF, 328 KB, 22 pages) provides sources of support for teachers and others in contact with children and young people
  • teaching blog includes posts written by teachers which can be filtered to find posts about student and staff mental health
  • targeted support toolkit provides a practical guide and filterable tool to help schools and colleges review, refresh and develop effective targeted support for learners with mental health or social and emotional wellbeing needs
  • psychological first aid training supports children and young people’s mental health during emergencies and crisis situations

Mental health and wellbeing resources for pupils, parents and teachers

Curriculum teaching and learning

As part of the relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education curriculum, all pupils are taught about mental health.

The PSHE Association has published advice for teachers on teaching about mental health and wellbeing as part of the RSE and health education aspects of the curriculum.

DfE has produced a mental wellbeing training module to support the teaching of mental wellbeing as part of this curriculum.

The school sport and activity action plan helps you encourage physical activity, which helps to promote wellbeing.

Staff wellbeing and development

School and college teachers and leaders can access support for their own wellbeing and to address challenges around workload.  

The education staff wellbeing charter is a declaration of support for, and a set of commitments to, the wellbeing and mental health of everyone working in education. It directs education staff to mental health and wellbeing resources .  

The DfE school workload reduction toolkit was developed with school leaders to help schools review and reduce workload. We have updated the toolkit to make sure it remains helpful and relevant to support schools and trusts. 

Other professional development is available, including: 

Information for parents, carers, teachers, pupils and learners

The mental health and wellbeing list of resources (PDF, 328 KB, 22 pages) provides sources of support.

The education hub provides links to organisations that offer mental health support.

Mental health, behaviour and attendance

We have published mental health and behaviour guidance for schools, to help them support pupils whose mental health problems affect behaviour.

The behaviour hubs programme encourages schools to work with each other to develop cultures of good behaviour.

To support the working together to improve school attendance guidance , we have produced guidance for schools on when a mental health issue affects attendance.

Statutory guidance

A key part of developing your whole school or college approach should include understanding pre-existing statutory responsibilities on the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) code of practice.

Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) statutory guidance outlines the statutory duty for all schools to promote the welfare of their pupils. This includes:

  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • taking action to help all children have the best outcomes

Local support

Schools and colleges should be aware that their local authority has responsibility for:

  • promoting and protecting public physical and mental health
  • safeguarding children and young people
  • assessing and supporting children with SEND

Your local authority may be able to:

  • offer support through routine school improvement, health promotion or educational psychology functions
  • direct you to other relevant training and services in your local area
Published 2 June 2021
Last updated 21 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated resources to keep them current.

  2. Updated to reflect DfE's new offer of a second grant for senior mental health leads and with latest statistics on the uptake of the grant.

  3. A link has been added to the guidance on promoting children and young people's mental health and wellbeing. Further detail on the increased numbers of Mental Health Support Teams from 2024 has also been included.

  4. A reference to the Mermaids advice line has been removed from the list of mental health and wellbeing resources.

  5. Updated the figure in 'nearly 500 mental health support teams will be working with and in schools and colleges attended by almost 3 million pupils in England' to 'nearly 400'.

  6. Updated information on whole school and college approach, RSHE and Mental Health Support Teams.

  7. Updated ‘Whole School or College Approach’, ‘Senior mental health leads training’, ‘Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs)’ and ‘Mental health and wellbeing resources’ sections.

  8. Added a list of mental health and wellbeing resources for teachers, school staff and school leaders.

  9. First published.