“We could end up in a lot of trouble” Teachers’ communications with young children about mental health

Cooke, A., King, J. and Greenwood, K. (2016) “We could end up in a lot of trouble” Teachers’ communications with young children about mental health. Journal of Public Mental Health, 15 (2). pp. 103-114. ISSN 1746-5729.

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Purpose – Stigma towards people with mental health problems is a significant problem and appears trenchant despite recent anti-stigma campaigns. Attitudes develop in young children, and may be stronger and less malleable in adolescence. Early intervention may be important for mental health education and stigma prevention. Theory, evidence and practical considerations suggest that teachers’ involvement is key. By exploring communication about mental health between teachers and young children, it will be possible to elaborate how stigma develops and may be ameliorated. This study explored teachers’ accounts of this communication and the factors that influence it.
Methodology – Semi-structured interviews with fifteen primary school teachers were transcribed and analysed using a grounded theory approach.
Findings – Discussions about mental health were largely absent from the classroom, due to teachers’ anxiety. Teachers felt the need to protect children from exposure to people with mental health problems and even from information about the topic, believed they lacked the necessary expertise, worried that such discussions were outside their remit, and were anxious about parents’ reactions.
Originality/Value – This was the first study to interview teachers on this topic and suggests that a significant opportunity to address stigma is being missed. Teachers’ silence may reinforce that mental health problems are taboo, and prevent children from developing knowledge and a language to talk about mental health. The inclusion of teachers in early mental health education is more sustainable and could promote more inclusive attitudes, especially if supported by educational policy and curriculum.
Keywords - school, young children, teachers, mental health education, stigma prevention, policy, grounded theory
Article Classification – Research Paper

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF075 Psychology. Practice
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine > RA0790 Mental health services. Mental illness prevention
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Anne Cooke
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2016 12:01
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2017 12:34
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/14601

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00