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School’s role in early intervention for mental health needs

Teachers and school leaders are not expected to be mental health professionals. But schools can help reduce the severity of young people’s mental health concerns with early intervention.

Schools have a key role in early intervention because:

  • The first signs of mental health conditions are often seen in school-aged children and young people. Half of all mental health conditions emerge by the time people are 14 years old.
  • School staff are well placed to identify emerging issues.
  • Schools are often the first (and sometimes only) platform for children and young people to access support and referral.
  • School staff can deliver many mental health and wellbeing supports.

Tier 2: Early intervention and cohort specific supports

Tier 2 provides essential additional support for students with specific needs or vulnerabilities. They are flexible and based on the needs of the student.

Intervention types

  • Support from the school-based wellbeing team, including the Mental Health Practitioner. Examples include short term school-based counselling for students with emerging mental health concerns or mild to moderate mental illness, connecting to community organisation support
  • Support with making lifestyle adjustments such as diet, sleep or routine
  • Skills focused, small group programsExternal Link
  • Supporting student understanding of key mental health and wellbeing concerns. This includes reducing stigma around mental health concerns and encouraging help seeking
  • Engaging with our Health, Wellbeing and Inclusion Workforce through the school’s Health and Wellbeing Key Contact to identify/develop supports and interventions.
  • Choosing Tier 2 interventions from the Schools Mental Health MenuExternal Link .

Actions for teachers

  • Reasonable adjustments to teacher practice and expectations. For example, adjustments to assessments and learning tasks, seating arrangements to support a student need
  • Teacher check-ins (daily or weekly) – a few quick questions that assist teachers to understand how the student is feeling and to help identify if more support is required
  • Extra class time to practice key social and emotional skills and behavioursExternal Link
  • Being a mentor or trusted person to a student.

Tier 2 interventions require regular monitoring and review to determine if the intervention needs to be maintained, intensified, adapted or stopped. This supports schools to decide if students need more intensive and targeted Tier 3 interventions.

Parents and carers

Where possible, deliver early intervention in partnership with families. This can improve engagement in education and daily life and reduce the risk of mental health concerns worsening.

Parents and carers must provide informed consent for some interventions (unless a student is assessed as being a mature minorExternal Link ). This includes counselling by a mental health practitioner or Student Support Services.

Student Support Services

Student Support ServicesExternal Link (SSS) include a broad range of professionals such as psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers. They support schools in assisting children and young people facing barriers to learning to achieve their educational and developmental potential. They work as part of an integrated health and wellbeing team within networks of schools, focusing on providing:

  • group-based and individual support
  • workforce capacity building
  • provision of specialised services.

Health and wellbeing key contact

The Health and Wellbeing Key ContactExternal Link (HWCK) works with the school’s nominated student wellbeing contact (for example, Student Wellbeing Coordinator, Primary Welfare Officer etc.) to support the school to plan and respond to the needs of:

  • students with mental health and wellbeing concerns
  • students deemed to be at risk
  • students who require additional supports and adjustments.

Supporting students from specific cohorts

All students should be empowered to raise concerns, seek help and influence decisions that affect them. Additional care may be needed to create trust and a safe space for students from specific cohorts to do this.

There are additional supports that schools must and should provide for these specific cohorts:

Schools should also provide additional supports for:

When supporting these students, it is also important to follow your school’s Student engagement policyExternal Link .

Reviewed 23 November 2022


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