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How schools can support pupils whose mental health problems manifest themselves in behaviour

This is non-statutory, departmental advice from the Department for Education (DfE).

Mental health problems affect many people, and most schools will have pupils who need mental health support. This advice aims to help schools to support pupils whose mental health problems manifest themselves in behaviour.

Schools have an important role to play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children by developing whole school approaches tailored to their particular needs, as well as considering the needs of individual pupils.

This advice:

  • Sets out schools’ roles and responsibilities in relation to mental health and behaviour, within their existing duties;
  • Outlines how schools can identify whether a child or young person’s behaviour –disruptive, withdrawn, anxious, depressed or otherwise – may be related to a mental health problem, and how to support them in these circumstances;
  • Provides advice and guidance on working with other professionals and external agencies where appropriate; and
  • Provides links to additional support available to schools, including frameworks, audit tools, evidence and resources.

This advice sits alongside our non-statutory Behaviour and Discipline in Schools advice1, which summarises the statutory powers and duties for school staff and approaches they can adopt to manage behaviour in their schools.

It supports implementation of chapter 6 of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice, which sets out an expected process for identifying and responding to additional needs.

It also reflects recent policy developments in other related policy areas, in particular alternative provision, exclusions, and safeguarding. We have updated this advice as part of our wider work to support schools and colleges to promote good mental wellbeing in children.

Mental health and behaviour in schools

Ref: DFE-00327-2018PDF, 213KB, 34 pages


This guidance is for school staff and applies to all schools.

It gives advice on:

  • how to create a whole school culture, including promoting positive mental health
  • understanding the link between mental health and behaviour
  • how to identify children with possible mental health problems
  • where and how to put in place support, including working with external agencies where required

It also provides links to sources of further support and guidance.

The intervention and support guidance may also be useful for colleges and other post-16 institutions.

Behaviour and discipline in schools: guidance for headteachers and staff is also available.

Published 16 June 2014
Last updated 12 November 2018 + show all updates

  1. Updated with information about school responsibilities, and how to identify behaviours that may be related to a mental health problem. Also working with other professionals and external agencies, and where to find extra support.
  2. Reviewed source documents and updated references and website links.
  3. Advice reviewed to ensure web links and references are up-to-date. It also includes information on new policies such as the SEND code of practice and advice on school counselling.
  4. First published.

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