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© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: Teachers are often the first contact for students with mental health difficulties. They are in an ideal position to identify students who are struggling and frequently support them using different approaches and techniques. The purpose of this paper is to investigate secondary school teachers’ experiences of supporting the mental health of their students. Design/methodology/approach: Seven secondary school teachers from state-funded schools in the UK participated in face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to understand and structure the data into themes. Findings: Five superordinate themes emerged from the data analysis: perceived role of teacher, nature of relationship, barriers to helping the child, amount of training and resource, and helplessness and satisfaction. Participants described the lack of training, resource and clarity about their role to be causes of frustration. Internal and environmental factors often influenced participants’ feelings of helplessness. Research limitations/implications: The findings from this study cannot be readily generalised to the wider population due to the nature of qualitative interviews. Practical implications: This study has led to a greater understanding of the experiences of teachers within a school setting. It is crucial that mental health training for teachers directly meets their needs and abilities. Originality/value: This paper finds value in recognising the lived experience and difficulties faced by teachers supporting students’ mental health problems. A theoretical model is presented based on this analysis that can help inform best practice for schools.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

Publication Date





372 - 383