Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary schools and in junior cycle since 2003 and is designed, inter alia, to promote positive mental health. SPHE is supported by comprehensive teacher guidelines and a curriculum support service which provide training and advice for schools and a resource directory. The SPHE curriculum, at both primary and post primary levels, emphasises that an effective and meaningful SPHE programme provides learning opportunities in a combination of ways including: discrete time, a positive school climate and atmosphere and an intergrated approach across a number of curriculum areas. The curriculum also notes that the SPHE programme is most effective when the approach is consistent and responsibility is shared by parents, teachers, students, boards of management, health professionals and relevant members of the community which is done through the adoption of a whole school approach.
The Department has also issued guidelines to schools on the development of whole-school policies in the areas such as anti-bullying, RSE, substance use, managing critical incidents, whole-school guidance planning etc which are also important in promoting positive mental health. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), operating within the Department, provides a range of services both direct and indirect which support the personal, social and educational development of students in primary and post primary schools. NEPS provides assistance, upon request, to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, traumatic events such as the death of a student or staff member which effect the school communities ability to operate. NEPS also responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of the Department of Education and Skills and from the specialist agencies. 166 Psychologists are employed directly within NEPS and currently the Public Appointments Service is actively pursuing the filling of a further 9 posts in this regard.