Study background information

Studies have shown that the school environment, in particular support from school staff, can be important for adolescent emotional health and wellbeing. ‌‌‌ Indeed teachers have contact with more children and young people about wellbeing issues than any other public sector service. However, teachers report a lack of training in supporting student emotional health, and a lack of support for their own wellbeing, despite evidence that they are consistently ‌reported to be at increased risk of common mental health disorders compared to other occupations. Failure to attend to heightened levels of stress and distress may lead to longer term mental health problems, poor performance at work, sickness absence, and health-related retirement in teachers.

For example, results from the WISE pilot study showed that secondary school teachers had a lower score on the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale than the norm for the general working population. Further, 19.4% of the 555 secondary school teachers in the pilot study scored as moderately to severely depressed on the Patient Health Questionnaire. It also has implications for the quality of staff-student relationships and for student health, as stressed or distressed teachers are likely to be less able to engage in supportive relationships with students. Conversely, increasing support for teachers, and providing training in supporting student emotional health and wellbeing, may improve their own wellbeing, and that of their students.

The WISE study is an evaluation of an intervention that aims to improve support and training for secondary school teachers in the area of emotional health and wellbeing. The intervention uses a training package called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and consists of 3 parts:

i) a group of school staff will be trained in MHFA and will provide a peer support service for colleagues
ii) teachers will be trained in MHFA Schools, which covers key topics around young people’s mental health and wellbeing, with a strong practical focus on how to support young people experiencing mental distress
iii) all teachers will receive an hour’s training in mental health awareness.

We will measure if the intervention has an effect on:

  • Teacher wellbeing and depression
  • Student wellbeing and mental health difficulties
  • Teacher absence and presenteeism (self-rated poor performance at work)
  • Student attendance and attainment

The intervention was piloted in 6 schools and was found to be feasible and well received. A summary of the findings of the WISE pilot can be found here (PDF, 397kB) Twenty five schools from Bristol and the surrounding area and from South Wales are taking part in this larger study.


The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme, NIHR PHR (project number 13/153/39). The intervention is funded by Bristol City Council, Public Health England and Public Health Wales.


The study started in the summer of 2016 with the collection of baseline data. The training and support intervention will begin in the Autumn term 2016. The study will end in June 2018 with the final data collection. Results will be available in 2019.

Key references

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013: Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence. Available at:

Bowers T, McIver M: Ill Health Retirement and Absenteeism Amongst Teachers. Department for Education and Employment, Report number RR235, DfEE Publications, Nottingham, 2000.

Brandling J, McKenna S: Evaluating Mental Health First Aid Training for Line Managers working in the Public Sector.  Research Report, Mental Health First Aid. 2010. University - MHFA Evaluation Report.pdf

Department for Education: Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools: Departmental Advice for School Staff. 2014 Available at:

Ford T, Hamilton H, Meltzer H, Goodman R: Child mental health is everybody’s business: the prevalence of contact by public sector service by type of disorder among British school Children in a three-year period. Child and adolescent mental health, 2007, 12(1):13-20.

Health and Safety Executive, 2011. . Accessed: 2011-12-05. (Archived by WebCite® at ).

Henderson M, Harvey SB, Øverland S etal.: Work and common psychiatric disorders. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2011; 104:198-207.

Jorm AF, Kitchener BA, Sawyer MG, Scales H, Cvetkovski S: Mental health first aid training for high school teachers: a cluster randomised trial. BMC Psychiatry, 2010, 10(1):

Kidger J, Araya R, Donovan J, Gunnell D. The Effect of the School Environment on the Emotional Health of Adolescents: a systematic review. Paediatrics, 2012, 129:925-949.

Kidger J, Donovan J, Biddle L, Campbell R, Gunnell D: Supporting adolescent emotional health in schools: a mixed methods study of student and staff views in England. BMC Public Health, 2009, 9: 403.

Kidger J, Gunnell D, Biddle L, Campbell R, Donovan J: Part and parcel of teaching?  Secondary school staff’s views on supporting student emotional health and wellbeing. British Educational Research Journal, 2009, 36(6):919-35.

Melchior M, Caspi A, Milne BJ et al.: Work stress precipitates depression and anxiety in young, working women and men. Psychol. Medicine 2007; 37:1119-29.

Public Health England: Promoting Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing: a whole school and college approach. Available at:

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