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Keywords:

  • Emotional well-being;
  • focus group;
  • mental health;
  • school;
  • student;
  • youth

PROBLEM:  Schools have been identified as a suitable setting for the delivery of emotional well-being (EWB) support, but in the United Kingdom there is little empirical evidence from young people that can inform the development of appropriate school-based interventions.

METHODS:  Fifty-four students (11–16 years) from three U.K. high schools discussed the content, delivery, and evaluation of acceptable, school-based, EWB support. Focus group methods were matched to the school setting and sensitive topic.

FINDINGS:  Participants identified emotional difficulties in school, home, and with peer relationships. They said that some problems were too sensitive for them to seek help in school setting. They valued confidentiality, support, and effective help that were offered by people they experienced as friendly, trustworthy, and skilled. Teachers and peer mentors were not thought to fit these criteria, although trusted adults in mentor roles could meet their criteria. Participants recognized that they could hide their emotions, so their EWB would be difficult to assess. They described how the effect of emotional distress on their behavior is idiosyncratic, and therefore their EWB should not be judged simply on their behavior.

CONCLUSION:  The way in which EWB support is delivered in school is an important aspect of the role of practitioners and educators attempting to provide it. Because young people are sensitive to the personal qualities and skills of people offering them help, programs to train school staff in emotional support roles are important to ensure trust and an environment open to students seeking assistance. Interventions for school-based EWB support need to consider subjective well-being as well as behavioral change.