A cluster randomised controlled trial of an intervention to improve the mental health support and training available to secondary school teachers the WISE (Wellbeing in Secondary Education) project

Record ID 32016000614
Authors' objectives: Background: Health and Safety Executive figures show secondary school teachers have higher rates of stress, depression and anxiety compared to the general working population. Interviews with teachers have found that they often feel unsupported with regard to their own mental health needs. Failure to support them adequately is likely to lead to poor wellbeing, and more serious long-term mental disorders, poor performance at work (often called presenteeism), sickness absence and ill health retirement. Further, teachers are expected to develop supportive relationships with students, and studies have shown this is important for student mental health. However, staff report difficulties in fulfilling this role due to the lack of support for their own needs, and a lack of training. Therefore improving the mental health support and training available for teachers may equip them to provide better quality support for students, with long term gains for student mental health and academic attainment. The study: This study will introduce and evaluate an intervention that aims to equip teachers to support colleagues and students, assist them in coping with mental health difficulties and facilitate access to external help when required. In each school, 8% of staff will be trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and will then set up a peer support service for colleagues, offering confidential listening, advice and signposting to other services. A further 7-8% of teachers will be trained in MHFA for Schools and Colleges, to develop their knowledge and skills in supporting students. MHFA is a training course that equips people to recognise signs and symptoms of distress in others, and offer initial help and support. Twelve schools will receive this intervention, and a further twelve will form a comparison group, and will continue with usual practice. Methods: We will examine if the intervention has an effect on teacher mental health, teacher absence rates, teacher performance at work, student mental health, student absence rates, and student attainment. We will also consider if it provides good value for money. Before the intervention is delivered, we will collect questionnaire data from all teachers and students in year 8. In these questionnaires we will measure wellbeing and levels of depression/distress, numbers of teachers taking sickness absence, levels of presenteeism among teachers, and quality of teacher-student relationships. We will use routine data sources to look at student absence and attainment for the previous year. We will measure these things again after one year (staff mental health measures only) and two years after the intervention has been delivered (all measures). We will be looking to see if there are positive changes in wellbeing, attainment and relationships, and a reduction in depression, absence and staff presenteeism, and whether these changes are greater within the group of schools that received the intervention compared to the group that did not. We will also conduct interviews and focus groups with teachers, and observations of the training sessions, to explore what happened during the training, how the peer support service is being run, and in what ways participants feel the two aspects of the intervention are useful. Finally, we will calculate the cost of the intervention, and weigh this up against any benefits in terms of mental health, student attainment, and reduction in staff and student absences.
Project Status: Ongoing
Anticipated Publish Date: 2021
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England
MeSH Terms
  • Mental Health
  • School Health Services
  • School Teachers
  • Mental Health Services
Organisation Name: NIHR Public Health Research programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
Contact Name: journals.library@nihr.ac.uk
Contact Email: journals.library@nihr.ac.uk
Copyright: Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
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