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Home » Preventing anxiety and depression through increasing school connectedness – identifying the active ingredients of a whole school approach

Preventing anxiety and depression through increasing school connectedness – identifying the active ingredients of a whole school approach

Principal Investigators

A joint chief investigator model: Dr. Jeremy Segrott, Dr Hayley Reed, Dr Nicholas Page


Frances Rice, Olga Eyre, Yulia Shenderovich, Simon Murphy & Rhys Bevan-Jones


Addressing adolescent mental health and wellbeing at a systemic level is a public health priority. In 2021, the Welsh Government introduced the Whole-School Approach (WSA) to mental wellbeing. The WSA links together the curriculum and classroom with schools’ social environment, and places strong relationships between schools and families at the heart of a long-term strategy to develop mentally healthy schools.

Aims and objectives

The long-term aim of our work is to use research data to build school environments that promote mentally healthy students and practices.

During the first phase we aimed to understand the key drivers of school connectedness in secondary schools through analysing data obtained from the School Health Research Network (SHRN), a national network established within secondary school system in Wales which has been highlighted as a key source of data to support schools when producing their action plans and developing mentally healthy schools. The SHRN initiative in Wales is an exemplar of policy plans in other UK nations and is also recognized internationally (e.g., World Health Organisation’s Health Promoting Schools).   

In our next stage, we aim to build a school-level digital dashboard to support schools to use research data to inform their actions around student mental health and well-being.  This will involve co-producing the dashboard with schools, young people, researchers, and other school health practitioners. 

Study design

This study involves two phases: a Discovery Phase and a Prototyping Phase.

The Discovery Phase involved a secondary data analysis of Wales-wide student health survey and explored school connectedness and its relationship with the school environment and policies. Our secondary data analysis used linked school and student-level data obtained from SHRN that collects Wales-wide data on student mental health, with data available for 73% of students from 96% of mainstream secondary schools. 

During the first stage, we found that school connectedness (the extent to which young people feel connected to their school) relates to young people’s levels of anxiety and depression. For example, school connectedness was lower among students who had been a victim of bullying at school or felt pressure around their schoolwork and higher among students who perceived their school as providing good mental health support.

The Prototyping Phase will involve co-developing the dashboard with schools (and key stakeholders) to enable schools to analyse and act upon their own SHRN data more effectively. Drawing on findings from the Discovery Phase, we will provide access to metrics around school connectedness (and related measures), exploring the dashboard’s functionality via co-production with schools, young people, researchers, and school health practitioners.

Our outputs will include: 

  1. A prototype school-level digital dashboard, with decisions made concerning which data to include, how to display the data, and tools for schools to interrogate it
  2. An implementation plan for scale-up of the digital dashboard across SHRN in Wales 
  3. Resources for mental health researchers so that they can adapt our dashboard for their settings.

Public/Stakeholder Involvement

  • An Academic and Policy Advisory Group comprising of mental health researchers and school health research networks.
  • A public dissemination event for researchers will further develop opportunities for sharing insights and learning.
  • Workshops will be held with teachers as two events that will include schools from across the School Health Research Network (SHRN).
  • We have worked in collaboration with two established Young People’s Advisory Groups (YPAG), including DECIPHer’s research centre YPAG (ALPHA) and the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health YPAG. We plan to meet with the Wolfson Centre group during the Prototype Phase to understand how students would like to use the dashboard.
  • Workshops will be held with practitioners from the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes.  They advise schools on development of actions to promote student mental health and use of SHRN data to do this.

School level digital dashboard

Click below to find out more about the school-level digital dashboard which we have built, and to view the dashboard.

Start date

August 2023

End date

September 2023


Mental Health Data Prize/ Welcome Trust