Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, was among the speakers at a conference for new teachers on how they can play their part in supporting teenage mental health.
Norfolk Teacher Training Centre’s third annual summer conference, held at UTC Norfolk on Saturday 17 June, aimed to give trainees and newly qualified teachers practical ways to monitor pupils’ emotional wellbeing and an understanding of the support that is available for young people.
Mr Lamb has held ministerial responsibility for community and social care and has long campaigned to improve mental health services. He told the audience of 50 new teachers that supporting young people is particularly important for improving the mental health of the nation as a whole:
“Probably about 1 in 10 children, and nearer 20 per cent of adolescents and young people, have a mental health problem. About 50 per cent of mental ill health in adulthood starts by the age of 14, and about 75 per cent starts by 18, 19, 20, so those teenage years are when everything is happening. If we neglect it in those early stages that is unhelpful in terms of giving that person a chance of recovery and a chance of a good life.”
Paul McCann, Director of Norfolk Teacher Training Centre, said that more needs to be done within the teaching profession to respond to this challenge:
“Whilst we have come to embrace our collective responsibility for literacy, numeracy and safeguarding, regardless of the subjects we teach, as a profession we still seem worryingly slow at taking a similar approach to mental health and wellbeing. We still have a long way to go in securing learning environments which support calm and empathetic atmospheres without compromising pupil progress.”
He added that the conference was “not about us all becoming amateur psychiatrists, but about thinking how we all promote healthy and happy classrooms, developing a better understanding of mental health, and a more skilful approach to this fundamental responsibility.”
The teachers who attended the NTTC conference came mainly schools in Norfolk, although the event attracted teachers from across the region. Delegates heard from representatives from Central Norfolk Youth Service, The Matthew Project, Zoo-Tastic, and The Self Esteem Team, and art psychotherapist Alice Thorley.
Topics ranged from understanding disorders that are prevalent among teenagers, to learning how to talk about difficult emotions in the classroom, to dealing with substance abuse, and creative approaches to wellbeing such as art therapy and therapy animals.