Teachers' perceptions of the barriers to assessment of mental health in schools with implications for educational policy: A systematic review
Pia O’Farrell, Charlotte Wilson, Gerry Shiel
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Institute of Education

Assessment of mental health in schools has garnered increased interest in recent years. The number of children receiving clinical psychology services in Ireland increased by over 150% between 2019 and 2020, while the number of children in need of services increased by half during this time.

Children spend a large proportion of their daily lives in school. Therefore, teachers can act as gatekeepers by playing a key role in identifying children with mental health difficulties in the classroom and making the necessary onward referrals to external services. The prevalence of mental health difficulties, their impact on schooling (and beyond) and the importance of early intervention means that it is incumbent on schools to identify and support potentially affected children.

Previous reviews focused on mental health interventions in schools; however, this review focuses on the assessment of mental health in schools and on teachers' perceptions of this, as such a review is still lacking. Therefore, the study fills a gap in the existing literature while also providing new, highly relevant evidence that may inform policy making in this area.

Results found that lack of training in assessment of mental health and ‘role conflict’ were key barriers; some teachers attributed this to their lack of knowledge, skills and confidence in the area.

Implications for practice and research are discussed in relation to the importance of sustained training both pre-service and in-service.