Dr Miranda Wolpert of UCL explores ‘What kinds of mental health activities (5-18) should be the focus for funders’ grant-making and what should they be aiming to learn?’ in her presentation at the Education Empowerment Forum in 2015.
The policy at this time focuses around advising schools on methods of counselling and early intervention, to provide pupils with “grit” and “character” in order to improve pupils academic attainment and satisfy Ofsted inspections. This comes at a time of increasing mental health problems in school-age children, with around 1 in 10 experiencing anxiety, abuse, and behavioural issues, as well as cuts in mental health provision, with a historic lack of collaboration occurring between schools and these services.
Risk factors for reduced emotional well-being include poverty, family problems, learning disabilities, being an asylum seeker, poor environment, enduring poor physical health, and experience of abuse. Factors which benefit emotional well-being include high self-esteem, good relationships, good housing, adaptability of temperament, and a high IQ. Due to these risk factors, strong resilience and positive coping strategies are helpful in combating poor mental health.
Dr Wolpert proposes use of a model which draws a clearer distinction between treatment and support, and self-management and intervention. Evidence has shown that interventions based around mindfulness and resilience, prevention and promotion programmes in schools, and targeting help for those at most risk, have been proven to work through research. Common factors of successful programmes include consistency, integration, early interventions, basis in skills and the school environment, and also meeting the needs of teachers. These strategies should be underpinned by effective training and good monitoring and feedback processes.
“This report underpins much of Evolve’s work and validates its approach in terms of consistency, integration and early intervention. The identified risk factors for poor emotional health do not have to be a life sentence for vulnerable children since programmes exist that can improve children’s self esteem, resilience and social skills, all of which have been shown to contribute towards improved mental health outcomes.
The challenge for funders and public policy reform is how such interventions that deliver multiple, cross-sector benefits can be funded by more than one commissioner and/or grant funder.”
– John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director
To read the full presentation, click here.