According to the World Health Organisation, 20% of adolescents could experience mental health issues in any given year and yet 70% have not had appropriate interventions quickly enough1. Although it is becoming more common to hear of celebrities and high-profile personalities sharing their own experiences, many people feel that there is still a stigma attached. 57% of young people have reported that fear of stigma has prevented them applying for a job2, and it’s common for people to wait more than a year to share their feelings even with family members.
As education providers, and often in a position of trust or authority, those working in Further Education may well find they are faced with the disclosure of a mental health issue from a student. This is challenging enough in itself but how do we even begin to support those who may never feel confident to share what they are going through in person?
There would seem to be four key tenets to addressing this: sign-posting; education; environment and; early identification. Knowing how and where to sign-post students (or colleagues) to specialist services is key, quickly followed by educating our staff and students about accessing these services, as well as a more general awareness. This education and the ‘normalising’ of mental health issues will all help to create an environment that is tolerant and supportive. From the DfE report “Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges”3, it would seem that the case study institutions are already meeting these fairly well, suggesting that education in general is making best efforts.
However, as we have already suggested, the fourth tenet is far more challenging; how can you make an early identification for an individual who may never directly disclose an issue? We believe there is more that some institutions could be doing – and that same report gives us the clue. Only 50% of educational institutions studied were using the data that they already collect, such as attainment or attendance, to help identify potential problems. From our own experience, we know that data collected by software such as our eNotify product can help.
As one Pastoral Support Manager told us: “[eNotify] definitely allowed us to identify issues quickly and we put a system in place where learners whose notes cause a concern would be flagged to the pastoral support team”.
We have long believed that the ability to type a message to explain absence or lateness, instead of having to ring an absence line and actually speak to a person, was likely to see students volunteer more information. Whilst these messages can make for worrying reading, it is clear that eNotify has provided colleges with an additional route to identify causes for concern sooner. Whilst this type of data alone cannot solve problems, it can be a critical part in a college’s mental health ‘toolkit’.
If you’d like to understand how eNotify could support your efforts, please contact us for a chat or a demo.