We need trained clinicians supporting our youngsters

In 2018 Cambridge Academic Performance carried out a systematic literature review to examine the best evidence on providing clinically significant support to students with mental health problems in secondary schools or at university. We looked at the evidence base in Europe, America and Australia over the past ten years. We screened 2413 abstracts and reviewed 216 full text articles. We identified 9 pieces of research and focused on what was clinically significant about the therapeutic approaches that were used.

This has informed our work ever since. We take our work seriously and we offer an evidence- based approach to support students to not only manage their mental health but to thrive and succeed.

In the studies Cambridge Academic Performance found that treatments delivered by trained clinicians demonstrated improved outcomes for the treatment groups in 5/5 studies, while those delivered by facilitators showed significant improvements in just 1/3 studies and those delivered by teachers had mixed results.

This was a surprise outcome of our research. We hadn’t factored in that therapeutic group sessions are sometimes delivered by staff who are not trained clinicians. It was reassuring to see that when clinicians are used students’ mental health improved in all cases. This is not to say that teaching staff or other facilitators do not have a role, but it is important to note that if we do not deliver useful support to vulnerable students in the first instance, it can put them off seeking any further support. This escalates vulnerability. When young people reach out they need clinically effective support. And teachers can feel overwhelmed by the level of help they are being expected to provide that falls outside of their training. It is extremely worrying for teaching staff to feel that they are responsible for their students mental wellbeing.

That is why Cambridge Academic Performance, who are trained and registered occupational therapists, are able to offer teaching staff support and guidance, as well as deliver clinically significant therapeutic approaches.

Our finding was – we need trained clinicians supporting our youngsters. And those trained clinicians need to know what works best through a thorough understanding of the research.