New guidelines on promoting mental health in primary schools
‘Listening to voice of the child’ considered essential for progressive development
Jan O’Sullivan: “The mental health and well-being of our children is critical to success in school and life.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
New guidelines on promoting positive mental health in primary schools have been published, highlighting the need for collaboration between parents, schools and health agencies.
The guidelines, published by the department of education’s National Educational Psychological Service, identifies best practice and support structures available.
“Listening to the voice of the child and fostering healthy relationships with peers, teachers and school staff are essential to children’s positive experience of school and their cognitive and emotional development,” it says.
Launching the guidelines, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said they would provide practical guidance on how primary schools can promote positive mental health and well-being.
“The mental health and well-being of our children is critical to success in school and life. Identifying and supporting children who may be vulnerable or at risk are key to successful positive mental health promotion and suicide prevention.”
Minister of State for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch added: “It is important to recognise that mental health and well-being are not the sole responsibility of schools. Parents and the wider school community have complementary roles each supporting the other.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power welcomed the new guidelines but she said they would only be successful if backed up by extra resources for schools and community mental health services.
“While schools can help reduce the number of children struggling with mental health problems, there will always be some who need specialised support from psychiatrists and other professionals.
“At present, the HSE service child-and-adolescent mental health service is hugely understaffed in some parts of the country, including my own area of north Dublin. As a result, very vulnerable children can’t get the support they need.”
The guidelines are available on the department’s website, education.ie.