Bereavement can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. Rethink Mental Illness has a useful summary.
In most cases, children, young people and the adults around them are able to manage their experience of bereavement where the school system provides thoughtful and contingent support. With a clear narrative for events and careful support, most children, young people and adults can make sense of their experience of loss. In some cases, particularly where the bereavement event might be unexpected or traumatic, the loss can have a significant effect on emotional wellbeing and mental health.
Research shows that mental health disorders are more prevalent in children who have been bereaved. A study published by National Children’s Bureau concluded that bereaved children were approximately one-and-a-half times more likely than other children to be diagnosed with any mental disorder. A fact-sheet from the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice cites a range of research about the impact of bereavement:
Research indicates that young people involved in offending are more likely to experience multiple, traumatic or parental bereavements than the general adolescent population (Vaswani,2008). In turn, traumatic and multiple bereavements are linked with a significantly increased risk of depression; and comorbidity (Dowdney, 2000); as well as negative outcomes in relation to education; self-esteem and risk-taking behaviour (Ribbens McCarthy, 2005).
Following the notification or disclosure of bereavement to an adult in school, the following actions should be considered:
- School follows its bereavement policy
- School staff work with the child/young person and their family to plan support, including who needs to know and how, following the family’s wishes
- A key member of staff is assigned to the child/young person (there is to be a trained staff member in each school) for ongoing support, working within best practice, the school’s policy and to meet specific needs of the child or young person
- The completion of an early help assessment may be appropriate for some children or young people in order to identify and meet needs
- Referrals to CAMHS may be required where there is a possible anxiety disorder / clinical depression
- Training is offered to Solihull schools and information and guidance are published on the Solgrid health and wellbeing pages.
Solihull Community Educational Psychology Service: firstname.lastname@example.org
Curriculum (universal provision through planned PSHE)
The school’s PSHE curriculum should:
- Have a strong focus on feelings, emotional literacy, accessing help and support and talking to a range of trusted adults
- Incorporate the Child Bereavement Network’s resource, Elephant’s Tea Party, which provides activities and lesson plans to help pupils explore the subject in an age-appropriate way
- Incorporate the SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning) unit Changes for primary aged children which focuses on loss and change. Whole school assemblies support this learning across the school and there are further materials to support targeted interventions (silver set)
Support for young people
Grief: Support for young people
This app has been created by a group of bereaved young people working with leading bereavement charity Child Bereavement UK. It has been developed for 11-25 year olds who have been bereaved of someone important to them. It can also be used by friends, teachers, parents and professionals who would like to know how to support bereaved young people.
Updates and changes
These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information. Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.