A new programme from the charity Samaritans links in with current initiatives to create an emotionally healthy culture in schools.

DEAL (Developing Emotional Awareness and Learning) is a new programme for schools that aims to improve the emotional health of young people across the UK and Ireland. It has been launched by Samaritans, the charity that provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

DEAL is being issued to every secondary school, to be used as part of a whole-school approach to emotional health and wellbeing. It builds on extensive work Samaritans has done before with schools and will actively promote the emotional wellbeing of young people, raise awareness of emotional health, promote positive ways of coping and challenge the stigma around asking for help.

Chief executive David King said: ‘Young people are vulnerable and DEAL makes them better equipped to deal with the pressures they face in life and feel so much more confident about how, and where, to get support when they need it.’

Fiona Feehan, national coordinator of the National Healthy Schools Programme (NHSS) for England said: ‘The NHSS has emotional health and wellbeing as one of its core four themes. We place great importance on a healthy school being one that also caters for the emotional health and wellbeing of its pupils and staff. This includes information and awareness-raising alongside clear referral pathways and systems of support.’

The press release for the launch published the following statistics:
The UK alone has 7.21m children of school age and DEAL is being announced at a time when:

  • one in five children has psychological problems
  • one in 10 children has a clinically diagnosable mental disorder
  • over 60% of teenage boys don’t know what to do when someone becomes emotional towards them
  • over 40% of girls also don’t know how to react to someone who’s upset
  • over half of teenagers don’t know how to express their feelings – they can only stick to the facts when they talk about their problems
  • 10% of teenagers (15 to 16-year-olds) have self-harmed
  • a record 60 children a day are suspended or sent home from London schools for violent behaviour
  • 75% of children with ‘conduct disorder’ problems when aged 10 still have them when aged 15 years old
  • 50% of children with emotional problems when aged 10 still have them when aged 15 years old
  • emotional health promotion should not rely on information alone but should involve the development of student skills and behaviours that are reinforced in the wider community
  • emotional and social competence has been shown to be more influential than cognitive abilities for personal, career and scholastic success. Working in this area can improve educational and life chances.

Resources

The DEAL resource pack includes:

  • an introduction to emotional health for schools
  • activities for staff
  • a DVD with separate sections for staff and pupils
  • cross curricular lesson plans
  • a series of fact sheets.

Development coordinator with Samaritans, Tonja Schmidt, who leads on DEAL, said: ‘All schools have a responsibility to promote the emotional health of their students yet 63% of teachers say they do not feel confident delivering this subject in the classroom. DEAL has been shown to improve teacher confidence, which helps them to create a more emotionally healthy school environment.’

Emotional health-related skills are important to all parts of life. DEAL lessons can be taught as part of a range of subjects, including English literature, citizenship, drama, and geography. The resources help students understand ‘emotional health’ as it relates to them, their friends, family and peers. The lessons also help students identify coping strategies for stressful or difficult situations they may face, and to differentiate between positive and negative coping strategies.

A major aim of the DEAL programme is to explore the barriers to asking for help and to help young people respond appropriately when friends ask them for help and support.

Samaritans volunteers from over 200 branches will continue to take an active role with local schools and will be able to offer teachers support in delivering the DEAL programme.

DEAL’s ‘whole-school’ approach, involving all members of the school community, creates an emotionally healthy culture – this places DEAL firmly in line with existing initiatives such as Every Child Matters, the National Healthy Schools Scheme and Standard 1 of the National Service for Mental Health.

Samaritans offers 24-hour confidential emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. Across the UK, you can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for the price of a local call.

Details of the DEAL programme can be found on the Samaritans website at www.samaritans.org/deal

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