Promoting Positive Mental Health In The Classroom

Schools are often where children’s and adolescents’ mental health problems are first identified. 

Schools are often where children’s and adolescents’ mental health problems are first identified.
While there is ever-growing demand for mental health support for pupils (school counselling or play therapy), the focus now, just like for any health problem, should be more prevention than intervention.
Prevention makes sense financially given that specialist mental health services for children and adolescents are at the moment overloaded with long waiting lists.
More importantly, helping young people develop traits, skills and strategies to protect their mental health can have a lifelong positive impact.
If mental health skills are broadly taught in schools and applied by pupils in a supportive learning context (and where possible also involve family, and are put into practice outside school) the health improvements could, in time, benefit the whole population.

In short, mental health prevention in schools makes a lot of sense. But according to a recent report, it is largely insufficient in our schools. This is despite well-being being high on education policy agendas.

There seems to be an imbalance between learning about physical health and mental well-being. Most children are taught about the importance of things like exercise, a healthy diet and the risks of smoking in school.
But they rarely learn about the impact of stress on their body, symptoms of anxiety and depression, or healthy mental habits. They are not taught how to prevent anxiety and excessive negative stress, or how to work with these experiences if they arise.

The school setting
Currently, Mental Health Ireland is evaluating their offerings in schools and exploring new developments for students, teachers and parents that will best support schools in implementing a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. They hope to have these offerings available in the near future.

Mental Health Ireland supports best practice in mental health promotion and aim to align to, and strengthen the structures already in place in schools.

In 2018, Mental Health Ireland was delighted to see excellent advancements in this area with the announcement of new wellbeing guidelines for the junior cycle, from the Department of Education and Skills and the release of wellbeing policies for schools.
A national roll-out of the Mind-Out training for the schools and youth sector was also announced. This Irish programme which has been developed by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway and the HSE’s Health Promotion and Improvement Department has been proven to strengthen young peoples’ social and emotional coping skills and improve their overall mental health and wellbeing.
  • Teachers can register for MindOut Training on
  • Youth workers can register for MindOut Training on
When promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in schools the evidence would suggest adopting a Whole Schools Approach. Some examples of initiatives your school could lead on include:

Five Ways to Wellbeing challenge
  • Ask students and staff to take a different action area each day/week/month in the school.
  • Encourage and facilitate students/staff to take ownership of what this might look like in your school setting –
  • More information on what each action area looks like
  • You can order literature on the Fiveways (Leaflet/bookmark) by contacting [email protected] . There are lots of ideas within each action area that the students get involved with that will raise their awareness of mental health and also look after their own mental health.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.


Laura Doyle

Mum of four, Gentle parent living on coffee and trying always to stay positive and motivate in the midst of the madness.

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