Whose responsibility is adolescent mental health in the UK? Perspectives of key stakeholders
journal contributionposted on 16.04.2018, 09:19 by Michelle J. O'Reilly, Sarah Adams, Natasha Whiteman, Jason Hughes, Paul Reilly, Nisha Dogra
The mental health of adolescents is a salient contemporary issue attracting the attention of policy makers in the UK and other countries. It is important that the roles and responsibilities of agencies are clearly established, particularly those positioned at the forefront of implementing change. Arguably, this will be more effective if those agencies are actively engaged in the development of relevant policy. An exploratory study was conducted with 10 focus groups including 54 adolescents, 8 mental health practitioners and 16 educational professionals. Thematic analysis revealed four themes: 1) mental health promotion and prevention is not perceived to be a primary role of a teacher; 2) teachers have limited skills to manage complex mental health difficulties; 3) adolescents rely on teachers for mental health support and education about mental health; and 4) child mental health responsibility extends to parents. The research endorses the perspective that teachers can support and begin to tackle mental wellbeing in adolescents. However, it also recognises that mental health difficulties can be complex, requiring adequate funding and support beyond school. Without this support in place, teachers are vulnerable and can feel unsupported, lacking in skills and resources which in turn may present a threat to their own mental wellbeing.