A study by the Mental Health Foundation has called for greater support for children and staff within schools
Teachers feel they lack the training and confidence to help them address the mental health concerns of their pupils.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland has also shown more than half of teachers (51%) revealed that the pressures of their job have led them to develop a mental health problem (such as depression or anxiety) or exacerbated an existing problem.
Teachers also expressed concern that the health and wellbeing pillar of Curriculum for Excellence is not taught with the same commitment as reading and writing - yet 86% believe it's just as important.
A total of 71% of respondents told the charity that they lack the right training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils and only 13% have received Mental Health First Aid training.
Meanwhile, there has been a 20% rise in the number of children and young people being referred to specialist support (CAMHS) since 2015.
The foundation has called for mental health training to be embedded in the teacher training curriculum (Initial Teacher Education) at the outset of teaching careers – a proposal backed by 92% of teachers.
Toni Giugliano, policy manager at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “It’s remarkable that despite the growing number of children struggling to cope, mental health is still not a core part of the teacher training curriculum. Understanding child brain development, emotional vocabulary, self-esteem, self-care and managing stress are not extra-curricular – they should be core to what teachers learn from day one and throughout their careers to help them perform their job.
“Our research also shows that around half of teachers have struggled with their own mental health due to the pressures of their job. It’s clear that investing in training will not only benefit pupils but will help teachers look after their own emotional health. Stress in adults can often leak into young minds, which is why addressing teacher mental health is equally important. We need a “whole-school approach” where pupils and staff can support one another to thrive.
Frances Beck, a trained teacher from Ayrshire, who lost her son to suicide, has backed the plans.
She said: “The vast majority of my colleagues are very supportive of health and wellbeing, but a lack of specific training is problematic in designing and delivering lessons. It's really important that all teachers are effectively trained in mental health and are able to provide regular, quality mental health and wellbeing education.
“It's also important for schools to involve children and young people in leading their peers in mental health programmes to encourage them to support each other and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Schools should also embed a system of regularly measuring the levels of wellbeing of the whole school community in order to identify problems at an early stage and be proactive in targeting appropriate support.”