Mental Health: Counselling in Schools


In 2021, our Young Advisors met to consider how to use the Commissioner’s investigation powers to highlight an issue that was important to them. They looked at the Commissioner’s strategic priorities: mental health, poverty and climate justice. Mental health was identified as an area of serious concern which affects increasing numbers of children and young people. The decision to focus on mental health was also informed by the impact of increased levels of stress and anxiety experienced by children and young people during and post Covid-19.

The Mental Health Investigators understood, often from their own experiences, that children and young people need a wide range of mental health support services; in schools, in the community and in clinical settings. The office has previously expressed concerns about the availability of both crisis services and community-based interventions. The Mental Health Investigators chose to focus their investigation on school counselling as it is an important part of the Scottish Government’s response to Scotland’s mental health crisis, and plays a critical role in early intervention. It was also clear that looking at counselling provision in schools across Scotland could provide a useful picture of levels of need and challenges around delivery which might inform work in other areas. From that point onwards, the Mental Health Investigators were involved in leading every aspect of decision-making throughout this investigation including:

  • The initial planning and scoping of the investigation.
  • The tendering and procurement process for carrying out the research and analysis of evidence.
  • Decisions about the evidence required and the conduct of the investigation
  • Analysis of the evidence
  • The content, design and recommendations in this report.

Their clear-sighted views, experiences, understanding and ambition have informed this investigation into the delivery of counselling services in schools across the country, identifying both good practice and areas where improvements need to be made in this fundamental link in the chain of support for young people’s mental health and well-being.

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