Chrissy Orson

Educational Consultancy


A Whole Setting Approach to Mental Health

Embracing a whole setting approach to mental health, is not only a responsible step; with rising numbers of young people experiencing mental health issues, it’s arguably a vital one.

In 2022, 18% of 7-16 year-olds and 22% of 17-24 year olds had a probable mental health disorder.

This is no longer a problem that can be managed by focussing interventions on those who are struggling. To support these numbers, we need to be looking at how we can utilise our resources to promote positive mental health for all. This is not only better for our communities, it is also the most efficient use of dwindling resources.

Through a whole setting approach, we can positively influence behaviour, attendance, and academic attainment. These outcomes contribute to the holistic development of pupils, and lay the foundation for their future success both academically and societally. It’s no mistake that Public Health England have recognised the significance of mental health in the education sector.

A Whole Setting Approach to Mental Health

Let’s consider the key outcomes of a whole setting approach to mental health:

The Connection Between Behaviour & Mental Health

The link between mental health and behaviour is undeniable. When students are experiencing emotional distress or mental health challenges, they often behave it outwardly. Behaviours such as increased aggression, withdrawal, or disruptive conduct can be a cry for help from students struggling with their mental health. A whole school approach promotes a culture of understanding and empathy, enabling staff to identify and address these issues early on, fostering a positive and supportive environment for students.

Developing this culture also encourages young people (and adults) to speak up when they’re struggling. By highlighting “it’s OK to not be OK”, we can enable young people to take ownership over their mental health, and can support them to develop coping strategies.

Mental Health & Attendance

There is currently a lot of pressure on the sector to improve attendance, with the Department for Education identifying it as a key priority. Mental health challenges often result in pupils missing school, impacting their attendance records and consequently their educational progress. A whole school approach emphasises the importance of early intervention and support for pupil struggling with mental health issues.

The rise of pupils with Emotionally Based School Non-Attendance (EBSNA), particularly since Covid-19, remains a particular challenge for settings. By supporting these pupils through a whole school approach, alongside support for their individual circumstances, we can work towards a positive and sustained return to school for these young people.

The Link Between Mental Health & Attainment

Research consistently demonstrates the direct correlation between mental health and academic performance. Pupils who are mentally well perform better in their studies. A whole school approach not only helps pupils cope with challenges, it also provides resources and strategies to promote positive well-being. By nurturing pupils’ mental health, schools can expect an improvement in academic attainment, leading to better opportunities for their pupils’ future.

Recruitment & Retention Challenges: Links to Staff Wellbeing

By adopting a whole school approach, not only are we seeking to improve the mental health of young people, we’re also promoting the mental health of staff.

Recruitment into teaching has been an issue for a number of years, intensifying post Covid-19. There has also been an increase in the numbers of education staff leaving the sector, with stress and workload often cited as the reasons. This has created some very real challenges within the sector, meaning that consideration of staff wellbeing is a vital part of any whole school approach.

In 2022, 59% of education staff had considered leaving the sector due to pressures on their mental health.

We know that teachers who are mentally well are better able to perform in the classroom, but what about their increased ability to support young people who are struggling? And let’s not forget about leaders. With 84% citing that they’re stressed, we need to look at ways to protect their mental health so that we don’t lose these experienced individuals to other sectors.

By providing tools to support staff, as well as training to improve their confidence in supporting the mental health of pupils, we can embed a culture of promoting positive mental health across your whole setting.

For a whole setting approach, there needs to be commitment and partnership working across the whole setting.

If you want to know more about how I can support you to achieve this, get in touch for a free 45-minute consultation to discuss your current concerns and challenges.

PHE (2021) “Promoting Children & Young People’s Emotional Health & Wellbeing: A Whole School & College Approach.”

Education Policy Institute (2019). “Access to Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services in 2019.”

Kidger, J., et al. (2016). “Adolescent Mental Health & Life Satisfaction: An Exploration of the Role of School-Related Social Support.”

The Education Policy Institute (2021) “Discusses the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Recruitment & Retention Issues in the Education Sector.”

Education Support (2022). “Teacher Wellbeing Index 2022.”

Department for Education (2023). “Working Together to Improve Attendance.”

How Can I Support?

As a trauma-informed practitioner, Mental Health First Aid trainer, psychotherapist and coach, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to support you in developing your mental health strategy and a whole setting approach to promoting positive mental health for your pupils and staff.

I worked for several years within a school improvement service, supporting settings from EYFS to post-16 to embed a whole setting approach to mental health. I bring a breadth of knowledge and experience of what works well when it comes to mental health. My consultation also aligns with Public Health England’s advice for a whole setting approach to mental health. By following this evidence-based guidance, I can support you to consider your practice across the 8 principles. I will then identify what support you may need, or improvements you can make across your priority areas.

It is sometimes difficult to consider mental health alongside competing priorities, particularly those related to teaching and learning. We know that positive mental health impacts on behaviour, attendance and engagement, but where do we start?

Supporting Senior Mental Health Leads

The government has asked for all settings to have a Senior Mental Health Lead: an appropriate member of staff with the skills, knowledge and power to oversee your setting’s whole school approach. However, this role is often tagged onto an already large job description, and the individual can feel a little overwhelmed at the task ahead. That’s where I come in!

I can support your Senior Mental Health Lead to audit your provision with a strengths-based approach, identifying where things are working well alongside any areas for development. I will do this alongside consideration of how and where mental health aligns with your wider plans including your SEF, safeguarding, behaviour, SEND and EDI policies. This means that work is not taking place in silos, and forms part of the growth and development of whole setting.

By embedding mental health as a golden thread through your policies, procedures and practice, the impact isn’t limited to the pupils with poor mental health. You will also prevent those pupils who are struggling from getting worse and keep those thriving at their best. The same applies for work to support staff wellbeing.

All consultation work is bespoke, but you can find an example package below.

I offer a free 45-minute online consultation to look at your current challenges, areas for development and key priorities.  If I feel this there is something I could support with, I will make a recommendation for an appropriate package for your setting.

Get in touch to arrange a no-obligation conversation.

Areas of Focus

I can offer consultation, support and training linked to the 8 principles in the following ways (please note this is not an exhaustive list). You may also wish to look at my training offer which can form part of a wider piece of work with me:

  • Mentoring for senior mental health lead
  • Evaluation of your whole school approach to mental health across the 8 principles
  • Trauma-informed practice and ways of working
  • Whole school wellbeing measures
  • Leading workshops with young people to explore their views of ethos, culture and the whole school approach, including a solution-focussed discussion.
  • Providing training to whole staff or selected groups to support them in promoting positive mental health for pupils
  • Staff wellbeing workshops
  • Reviewing your staff wellbeing offer and support
  • Workshops with staff to explore their views of ethos, culture and the whole school approach, including a solution-focussed discussion.
  • Embedding a coaching culture in your organisation
  • Reviewing your impact measures and tools in line with the graduated response and identifying any gaps
  • Supporting you to build a measuring strategy which supports your graduated response
  • Developing parenting groups to gives parents the skills and understand to support their children to develop positive wellbeing through resilience building and the Youth Connect 5 programme
  • Promoting positive transitions through the YC5 in Transit programme
  • Supporting parents to understand mental health
  • Reviewing your mental health support in line with the graduated response model.
  • Supporting staff to understand their part in the graduated response, aligned with your setting’s offer.
  • Effectively embedding Mental Health First Aid into your setting

I offer a free 45-minute online consultation to look at your current challenges, areas for development and key priorities. If I feel there is something I can support with, I will make a recommendation for an appropriate package for your setting.

Get in touch to arrange a no-obligation conversation.


Example Consultation Package

A full-day on-site with your senior mental health lead to review of your whole setting approach to mental health in line with the 8 principles identified by Public Health England.

I can either look to obtain a general overview of strengths and areas for development, or the review can focus on a particular aspect of your approach, for example, the strength and effectiveness of your graduated response.

You will receive a comprehensive report detailing the findings, along with recommendations for your next steps.

Investment: From £570 (travel costs to be agreed in advance)

If you prefer this review take place over 2 half days, this can be arranged, however there may be an additional cost due to the time commitment.


If you are looking to commission a piece of therapeutic work for an individual child or staff member, or if you’re interested in a therapy provision within your setting, please get in touch to discuss your needs.

I hold an enhanced DBS check and as a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, I am bound by their ethical framework. I also hold the relevant insurance to practice.

You may wish to explore the section of my website Counselling/Psychotherapy – however please note this is aimed at individual private clients so the process and investment may differ for an organisational contract.

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