Healthy Minds

Healthy Minds is an on going approach to promoting positive mental health and emotional wellbeing for all members of school communities across Moray.

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How it started

Healthy Minds began as a pilot project in 2005, in response to the publication of the Scottish Government’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Framework for Promotion, Prevention and Care. The framework included a recommendation on promoting mental health and emotional wellbeing in schools. The pilot aimed to deliver a three phase approach:

  • phase one: activity for school staff
  • phase two: activity for pupils
  • phase three: activity to inform and involve parents

The TAMFS priorities this project addresses are:

  • Mentally Healthy Infants, Children and Young People
  • Mentally Healthy Communities
  • Mentally Healthy Employment and Working Life


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The project is delivered in partnership, with partners including:

  • NHS Grampian - the Rowan Centre (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and Public Health (Health Improvement and School Nursing)
  • The Moray Council Educational Services (now Education and Social Care)


Staff training is delivered to Associated School Groups (ASGs), i.e. staff from secondary school, associated primary schools and partners, primarily during school in-service training days.

The first level of training is aimed at all school staff (including support staff such as administrators, janitors and technicians) and partners (e.g. police, social work, community learning and development, and the voluntary sector).

This half day training session focuses on mental health awareness, both for the individuals themselves and the children and young people that they work with. It includes facilitated group exercises that encourage an open dialogue on mental health issues, for example, ‘What do you think?’ a series of broad statements designed to provoke discussion.

Following the whole school ‘awareness raising’ session further specific training is delivered to identified members of staff, for example, school nurses, guidance staff, home-school link workers, etc., who form a ‘cohort’ for their area. This in-depth, two day training session arms staff with the skills they need to assess whether a young person needs to be referred to the secondary care mental health service at the Rowan Centre or helps them determine how else the issues could be dealt with appropriately.

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The Healthy Minds approach has led to improved relationships and access between all agencies and the specialist child and adolescent mental health service.

To date approximately 1100 members of staff have participated in the initial mental health awareness raising training. Feedback has been very positive and has suggested that people are becoming more comfortable talking about mental health. Since the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence there is now a greater emphasis on mental health in the curriculum with health and wellbeing designated, alongside literacy and numeracy, as the responsibility of all staff. The Healthy Minds model of supporting staff to address mental and emotional wellbeing is even more pertinent than it was in 2005.

Over 150 members of staff have completed the more in-depth ‘cohort’ training and are subsequently using their increased knowledge and confidence to assess situations in their school communities and access appropriate support. As a result of this increased understanding and connection with the Rowan Centre, there has been a marked decrease in numbers of inappropriate referrals to the secondary service since the start of the project. This is particularly important because there is a significant amount of unmet need - the total number of referrals to the specialist service has increased in recent years whilst staffing levels have remained static.

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Healthy Minds training is evaluated after each session to ensure input is relevant and any follow up work is identified and addressed. Participants are asked to complete an evaluation form which requires them to list two things they have learned and one thing they would like to know more about.

Following one in service day training, a long standing member of staff claimed that it was, ‘the best in service day they have ever had’.

In 2007/8 there was a formal evaluation of the ‘cohort’ training delivered in Milne’s High Associalted Schools Group. This, and ongoing evaluation of more recent cohort training, suggests satisfaction with the training and particularly highlights increased confidence to address issues and access support. The team are currently in the process of collating all evaluation across the project to form a report to submit to the Community Planning Partnership to highlight the need for future funding to enable the continued delivery of the Healthy Minds approach.

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Lessons learned

The team’s advice for anyone starting out on a similar project is to identify and engage relevant partners early on in the planning stages and maintain and build on those relationships. The progress made in establishing and rolling out the Healthy Minds approach would not have been achieved without effective partnership working.

Susan Leslie, the Health Improvement Officer, commented that ‘No single partner could have made this happen on their own’.

The Healthy Minds approach has been amended following feedback and has been adapted to suit the needs and requirements of those being trained. Across the life of the project it has become clear that primary and secondary schools use different structures to manage mental health issues and so may require different approaches.

What’s next for the project?

The Healthy Minds approach is intended to be an ongoing approach with no fixed end to the project envisaged. There is always going to be a need to constantly refresh knowledge by providing updates and further training as new staff come on board. A significant challenge for the future is how to successfully involve parents.

The next step is to complete awareness raising and cohort training with all Associated School Groups. They will then start to look more closely at what schools are delivering to children and young people and how to support staff with this delivery. There will also be more specific training to support staff around issues such as how to address self harm, building resilience and brain development so adults gain a better understanding of children and young people’s behaviour and how they can best react.

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Susan Leslie
Health Improvement Officer (Schools)
Moray Council/NHS Grampian
Spynie Hospital
Duffus Road
Moray, IV30 5PW
Tel: 01343 567123

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