Five Steps to Mental Health and Wellbeing

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

A “Five Steps” framework to help develop whole-school approaches to mental health and wellbeing has been published.

Launched by the Anna Freud Centre, a mental health charity, the resource has been created by teachers, school leaders and mental health experts and offers a free-to-access interactive framework. The five steps are:

  1. Leading Change: Includes preparing for change, mental health and wellbeing policies, and information for governors, staff, pupils and parents/carers.
  2. Working Together: Includes setting up a Mental Health Action Group, collaborating with mental health services, and including pupils, staff and parents/carers in decision-making.
  3. Understanding Need: Includes identifying pupils at risk, measuring pupil wellbeing, and developing/measuring interventions.
  4. Promoting Wellbeing: Includes integrating wellbeing and mental health across the school culture and curriculum, Peer Support Programmes, and creating a safe environment.
  5. Supporting Staff: Includes confidential annual surveys, training and CPD, and clearly signposted support structures.

Research suggests that whole school or college approaches can improve attendance and attainment, including research from the Anna Freud Centre which found that as levels of mental health difficulties increase, attainment results decrease (Lereya & Deighton, 2019).

Furthermore, half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders (excluding dementia) begin by the age 14, and three quarters beginning by the age of 24 (Kessler et al, 2005).

Jaime Smith, director of the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre, said: “Children and young people’s mental health is everyone’s responsibility. Five Steps engages the whole school community including school staff, parents and carers, and pupils. By working together, we can make sure that children and young people get the help they need when they need it.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is now of the utmost importance that we communicate with parents and carers, monitor pupil and staff wellbeing, and have strong systems of support to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and staff.

  • Five Steps to Mental Health and Wellbeing: A framework for schools and colleges:
  • Five Steps to Mental Health and Wellbeing: A framework for schools and colleges, YouTube video, September 2020:
  • On Thursday, October 1, from 4:30pm, the Anna Freud Centre is hosting a seminar on the first of the “Five Steps”, Leading Change, which will be freely available to school staff. Visit


  • Kessler et al: Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey, Archives of General Psychiatry (62.6), June 2005:
  • Lereya & Deighton: Learning from HeadStart: The relationship between mental health and school attainment, attendance and exclusions in young people aged 11 to 14, Evidence Based Practice Unit, February 2019:

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