Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental Health Introduction

There are many definitions of mental health. In NHS Health Scotland mental health is used to refer to both mental health problems and mental wellbeing.

Mental health can be defined as, “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. With respect to children, an emphasis is placed on the developmental aspects, for instance, having a positive sense of identity, the ability to manage thoughts, emotions, as well as to build social relationships, and the aptitude to learn and to acquire an education, ultimately enabling their full active participation in society”  (World Health Organisation, 2014).

The emotional wellbeing of children and young people is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and helps them to grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Research tells us that the mental wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland is giving cause for concern. Strategies and policies aimed at improving mental health highlight the importance of prevention and early intervention and they recognise that recovery is possible with the right support and resources. A Taskforce on Children and Young People's Mental Health was established by the Scottish Government in June 2018.

The current cost of living crisis is having an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. For some, the basic human needs of staying warm, safe and having enough to eat are being challenged. Young Scot have a useful section on their website explaining the cost of living crisis and offering support to young people. Find out more here 

Mental Health and Wellbeing Information

The life expectancy of people with serious mental ill health is 10 to 20 years lower than the general population. Around the world, mental ill health is one of the leading causes of years lived with a disability. In the UK, 11% of 18-34 year olds report having attempted suicide and 16% report self-harm at some stage in their lives. In the last decade there has been an increase in the number of 15 year old girls reporting high levels of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Around 45% of all Childline counselling sessions now relate to emotional health and wellbeing (including self harm and suicidal thoughts and feelings). Research found that nearly a quarter of Scottish adolescents had experienced two or more psychological complaints within the past week, with difficulty sleeping being particularly common. 

In 2020, Youth Link Scotland, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament carried out The Lockdown Lowdown research with young people to give a deeper insight into how young people felt about the COVID-19 lockdown. Their research found that: 

  • 2/5 young people were moderately to severely concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.
  • 40% of young people did not feel confident about accessing support for their MH and wellbeing.

Although this research was carried out during a time of uncertainty and vast change, it is likely that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown will continue to influence the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland.  

Evidence suggests there is a link between experiences of poor mental health and inequality.

Examples of inequalities in mental health include:

  • Those living in the most deprived areas experience the poorest mental health.
  • Scottish suicide rates are four times higher in areas of the greatest deprivation than in areas of the least deprivation. Rates of suicide increase as the level of deprivation increases.

Mental wellbeing has been identified as one of six shared public health priorities for Scotland. Public Health Scotland state that improving children and young people’s mental health should be seen within the wider context of tackling societal inequalities. There are certain risk factors that make a child or young person more vulnerable to experiencing difficulties with their mental health. These are outlined in the image below.

There are certain risk factors factors that make a child or young person more vulnerable to experiencing difficulties with their mental health. 95% of 16 – 20 year olds in custody have at least 1 mental health disorder. 33% of young carers report problems around eating, self-harming or suicidal thoughts. 36% of children and young people with learning disabilities have a diagnosable disorder. 44% of 15 year old females in Scotland show signs of emotional problems. 45% of care experienced young people in Scotland were assessed to have at least one mental health disorder. Children and young people are 3 times more likely to suffer mental health problems if they are living in low income households. 40% of LGBT young people consider themselves to have a mental health problem compared to 25% of all young people in Scotland.

Other risk factors include:

  • Adverse childhood experiences.
  • Being from a Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority background.
  • Experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.
  • Experiencing homelessness.
  • Having a chronic health problem.
  • Having a learning disability.
  • Having a parent with mental health difficulties.
  • Having refugee status.

Mental health services for children and young people are under a lot of pressure. The number of referrals to specialist services is increasing, with rejected referrals also increasing. This means that children and young people are waiting longer for treatment and support for their mental health. However, there are some interim supports available within communities to support children, young people and their families. Go to ‘Useful Contacts’ to find out more. 

Mental Health and Education

Before the pandemic, in an average classroom, three children would have been suffering from a recognised mental health condition. The Good Childhood Report 2022 (available here ) shows that in the UK children's happiness continues to decline. It highlights that five children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have a recognised mental health condition.  When a pupil is struggling with aspects of their mental health and wellbeing, it can affect their classroom learning as well as their social interactions. A recent Scottish Government report found that the issues affecting children and young people's mental health in 2022 included: bullying, eating disorders, academic and school pressures, relationships, parental issues, gender identity and LGBTQIA issues, anger and self-esteem.  The report states that 12,000 children and young people sought support from school counselling services between July and December 2021. You can access the report here

Certain elements of the education system, such as transitioning to high schools or exams, can sometimes contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing. Issues within schools, such as bullying, can also have a detrimental effect on pupil’s mental health. On the other hand, there are aspects of the school environment that can have a beneficial effect on the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, such as the routine and stability provided by school.

Teachers and other school staff have a fundamental role to play in promoting and protecting the wellbeing and resilience of children and young people. There several resources and training opportunities available that can support schools to protect and support the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils.


Health and Wellbeing Census Scotland 2021- 2022 

The data shows that positive mental health and wellbeing decreases with stage, and there are differences by sex and deprivation. For pupils up to S4 positive perceptions of life satisfaction, confidence and loneliness decrease but there are small improvements (or no further decreases) for those in S5 and S6. The percentage of pupils who say their body and the way they look affects how they feel about themselves increases as children and young people get older. The survey also asked pupils about time spent online.

  • Pupils in P5 – P7 are more likely to spend three or more hours on electronic devices on weekdays and at weekends 
  • Pupils in S1 – S6 are more likely to spend 6 hours or more on electronic devices on weekdays and at weekends.  
  • Pupils in the most deprived areas in S2 – S6 were more likely to have problematic social media.  
  • Girls were also more likely to have problematic social media use than boys.  


School Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy  

When it comes to promoting positive mental health, a whole school approach should ideally be adopted, which is centred around prevention and early intervention for everyone in the school community. There is support and funding available to develop a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy for your school. Please speak to your local health improvement team or your school's Educational Psychologist for further information. View useful contacts here .



Here are some documents to help you develop your mental health and wellbeing policy:

Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy Training Needs Analysis

Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy Action Plan 

Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy Self Evaluation Tool


Learn more about the developing a mental health and wellbeing policy for your establishment by watching the video below. 


The following video outlines information on planning tools available to support your establishment around mental health and wellbeing.

Priorities for Mental Health Work

The short video below outlines priorities for education in relation to mental health and wellbeing.


Mental Health Curricular Resources

The following resources have been developed and/or quality assured by the Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Team. 

On Edge: Self Harm Awareness Resource Pack

Stage: Upper Primary onwards

Description: The On Edge: Self Harm Awareness Resource Pack is for teachers and professionals working with young people. This has been developed in partnership with mental health and education professionals and funded by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. It includes teaching support materials and further information in the form of sign-posting to external resources and advice services, references, and linked where relevant to the Curriculum for Excellence and other national guidance.

Link to resource : On Edge: Self Harm Resource Pack

Positive Mental Attitudes

Stage: S1 to S6

Description: The Positive Mental Attitudes curriculum pack has age appropriate lessons promoting positive mental health and preventing and supporting mental health problems.

Link to resource: Positive Mental Attitudes Pack  

Be Screen Smart

Stage: Early Years to Secondary

Description: The Be Screen Smart resource aims to raise awareness of the benefits of reduced screen time. 

Link to resource: Be Screen Smart Resource 

Loss and Bereavement

Stage: Early Years to Secondary

Description: This whole school approach to loss and bereavement guidance aims to increase knowledge and understanding on the subject of bereavement, loss and change, and how to support children and young people through this.

Link to resource: Loss and Bereavement Toolkit 

The Compassionate and Connected Classroom

Stage: Mid to Upper Primary

Description: The Compassionate and Connected Classroom is a classroom resource that aims to raise awareness of the potential impact of adversity and trauma in shaping outcomes for children and young people and provide support that can help mitigate the impact of these experiences.

Link to resource: The Compassionate and Connected Classroom 

Other Resources for Mental Health

Here are some additional resources for information about mental health and wellbeing.


NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Resources

Child and Youth Early Intervention Framework

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have developed a Child and Youth Mental Health Improvement and Early Intervention Framework, a tool for anyone working with children and young people across each of the six Health and Social Care Partnerships to effectively deliver mental health improvement for these populations. Access the framework here 

Early Years Mental Health Improvement Framework

This framework has been created as a planning tool to help support those working with babies and young children who are under 5 and their parents/carers to plan and deliver mental health improvement activities. It outlines the range of themes that evidence shows promotes positive mental health in the early years and highlights factors that both threaten and support good mental health. Access the framework here 

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Mental Health Resources for Schools List

A comprehensive document that offers a range of suggested resources that can be used in schools to help protect, promote and support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, the resources highlighted have been developed by Education and Health colleagues and National Mental Health organisations. Click here  to access the document.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Healthy Minds Pack

Healthy Minds aims to promote a basic awareness and understanding of mental health and topics that are associated with and can impact on mental health and wellbeing, such as sleep and long term conditions. This resource pack has been developed to support implementation of the NHSGG&C mental health improvement and early intervention frameworks for children and young people and adults. The pack can be accessed here 

NHS GGC Infant and Maternal Mental Health 

Further resources to support infant and maternal mental health can be found here.

NHS GGC Resilience Toolkit

This toolkit provides a visual aid and practical guidance for promoting the resilience of children and young people. The resource includes interactive sessions and is designed to be used by workers and volunteers working with young people aged 10 and over. Click here to access it.

Aye Mind Website

This website contains a host of useful mental health information and resources for professionals working with young people, such as activities to use and information on a range of support services available to young people. There is also a digital toolkit and instructions on how to make GIFS with young people to support discussion around mental health and wellbeing. Click here  to access the website.


General Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources 

A whole school approach framework

A whole school approach framework for schools to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The framework can be accessed here 

Barnardo’s Education Community

A 'one stop shop' where educators can go for trauma-informed resources, support and advice about how to help children and young people cope with any issues they are experiencing. Includes useful materials about how best to support pupils who are experiencing feelings of loss, grief and bereavement. The resource can be accessed here 

Charlie Waller Trust Resource Library

The Charlie Waller Trust Resource Library contains a range of booklets, guides and posters for young people, parents/ carers and professionals. You can also find information on their range of free webinars around mental health and wellbeing. Further information can be found here.

Children & young people’s mental health and wellbeing : a professional learning resource for all school staff

This resource takes a whole school approach centred around prevention and early intervention to promote positive mental health and wellbeing for everyone in the school community. It aims to provide school staff with knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing in schools and a range of opportunities to learn about experiences and advice from practitioners and young people. The resource can be accessed here 

Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition Resources Page

These easy to read and accessible resources cover a range of topics and could be helpful for children, young people, parents, carers, schools and other professionals. Access the resource page here.

In our own words: Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people

This package of resources have been developed by The Charlie Waller Trust, Charlie Watkins Foundation and Boys in Mind. The resources are aimed at parents, carers, teachers, and others who want to support the mental health of children and young people. The resources can be accessed here. 

Place2Be Mental Health Resources for Schools

From assembly and class activity ideas to videos and tip sheets, these mental health resources for schools can make a real difference to the emotional wellbeing of pupils. You can access the resources here

Positive mental wellbeing - resources to support children and young people

A comprehensive package of information, resources and organisations which are freely available to support primary and secondary school staff to support mental wellbeing. The resource can be accessed here 


Early Years and Parental Mental Health Resources

Wee Minds Matter

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde Infant Mental Health Service, Wee Minds Matter, was set up in 2021 to provide specialist support to parents and their babies during pregnancy, birth, and up to 3 years of age. Wee Minds Matter can support the work of professionals working with infants and their families, for example by supporting infant-focused care planning or providing consultation and reflective space to professionals. Further information can be found here 

Parentclub - Wellbeing for Wee Ones

Information and advice for new parents can be found here. 

Fathers Network Scotland

Fathers Network Scotland has a range of information around paternal mental health. You can find out more here.


Suicide Prevention and Self-Harm Resources

Glasgow multi-agency guidance for people working with Children and Young People at risk from self-harm or suicide

Multi-agency guidance to support staff across all partner agencies to provide a caring and appropriate response to children and young people experiencing a range of emotional distress and who may be at risk of self-harm or thoughts of suicide. The resource can be accessed here 


Trauma Informed Resources

Glasgow Centre for Population Health - Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

ACEs refer to stressful events experienced during childhood such as abuse, neglect, family conflict, parental imprisonment, mental illness or addiction. Further information can be found here . Information about ACEs and the attainment gap can be found here

Loss, Grief and Bereavement Resources (including ASL specific resources)

Supporting bereaved children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

This document provides information on some of the challenges bereaved children with ASD may face, and ideas for what might help. It can be accessed here

Supporting children with severe learning disabilities with bereavement and grief

This e-booklet provides information on how to support children with severe learning disabilities with bereavement and grief. It can be accessed here 

Supporting grieving children and young people with SEND

This webpage provides some information and guidance on how to support bereaved children with SEND, and the specialist support Winston’s Wish can offer grieving families. You can access it here 

Marie Curie Easy Read Bereavement leaflet

This booklet is to help people after someone dies. It talks about feelings people might have and things that might make them feel better. You can access it here 

Talking to Children that are bereaved

NHS Education for Scotland have produced this short film to support professionals that are working with children that have been bereaved. Click here to access it.

Muslim Bereavement Support Service

The Muslim Bereavement Support Service

The Muslim Bereavement Support Service is a registered charity who offer  support to bereaved women who have lost a loved one. You can access their website here.

Online resources 


Kooth is a free to access online mental health and wellbeing platform. It can be accessed by all 10 - 16 year olds across Glasgow City. Qualified counsellors are online 365 days a year. There are live chat sessions open Monday to Friday, from 12pm until 10pm and weekend 6pm until 10pm. As well as chatting to qualified counsellors on the text-based service, young people can message the team 24 hours a day, access fully moderated support forums, online magazine and other self-help tools. There is no referral process or waiting list. You can access the platform here 


An online service that offers support to people experiencing mental health issues. The service is anonymous, available 24 hours a day, is supported by registered counsellors and doctors and is free for anyone in Glasgow City aged 16 or above.

Members can take part in an online community and share issues or experiences with others. It is a supportive space in which people exchange stories or give advice about things that have helped them.

Togetherall offers a range of courses on issues including sleep problems, general anxiety or more specifically anxiety around health issues, worry, depression, loneliness and isolation. Users can work through these at their own pace, create journals to measure their progress and contact clinical moderators for support. There is no referral process or waiting list. You can access the platform here

Mental Health Strategy / Policy Links

The Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Team have pulled together a list of key strategy and policy links regarding children and young people. These documents should be used to inform planning and delivery within your classroom and school community.

These documents are a useful resource to build a knowledge base around current priorities and work around mental health and wellbeing in Glasgow and across Scotland. Please note that clicking on these documents will take you to external websites.

Children and Young People’s Mental Health Task Force Recommendations  

Children and Young People Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy and Legislative Map

Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Supports and Services Framework

Creating Hope Together: Suicide Prevention Strategy (2022 - 2032) 

Early Intervention Framework for Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing

Good Mental Health for All (2016) 

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Mental Health Improvement Framework (2012) - Mental Health Improvement and Early Intervention for Children and Young People 

Scottish Government Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

The Scottish Governments Mental Health Strategy (2017-2027) - a 10 year vision 

Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 31/03/2023