Health promotion of children with parents suffering from mental disorders. Assessment and promotion of teacher-specific mental health literacy

Teacher-MHL is an application-oriented research project, examining the current status of specific health-promoting skills of teachers, which will guide subsequent development and testing of a demand-orientated training program for teachers.


Mental disorders are regarded as “family diseases” as they affect healthy individual family members to certain degrees as well. Due to this potential burden, health promotion and primary prevention activities are of great importance. Different burden patterns and attempts at coping often become manifest in children’s school lives. This may affect the child’s learning performance, caused for example by concentration difficulties or impulsive behavior. In this context, schools can have an important protective function, but can also create risk potentials. Early assistance and prevention increases the chances of averting or mitigating adverse developments in children. Although pertinent teachers’ knowledge and a sensitization for the topic are considered essential, the scientific discussion provides no information on teachers’ abilities to recognize and deal with the psychosocial burden of children with parents suffering from mental disorders. Teacher-MHL tackles this gap by examining the current status of specific health-promoting skills of teachers. These findings will provide the knowledge base for the development and testing of a teachers’ training module for different school types.


The primary objective of Teacher-MHL is to:
  • measure the extent of pupil-related mental health literacy in teachers at primary schools and secondary schools (grade 5-6), with a focus on knowledge about the children’s living conditions and psychosocial strains, and based on this
  • develop a structured training for teachers in different school-types in order to promote the health of a high-risk group.

Expected outcome and benefits

In Germany, over three million children experience at least one parent suffering from a mental disorder every year. This affects one quarter of all students in Germany. Teacher-MHL aims to:
  • promote the recognition of needs of affected children at an early stage and provide support in the school-setting (schools will be addressed as a setting where children and adolescents are especially “accessible” for measures of health promotion);
  • qualify teachers to deal adequately with problems of affected children and their burdens;
  • pursue, if necessary, a broker and navigator function for the mediation of specified services or support systems;
  • achieve a relief for teachers by providing specialized information, recommendations and qualification possibilities.


Teacher-MHL will take place in four consecutive steps:
  1. Systematic literature review, providing information on the knowledge base of teachers who are dealing with pupils experiencing a mental illness of a parent.
  2. Exploratory quality teacher survey, consisting of 24 semi-structured interviews of teacher different school types. This forms the basis for a
  3. Quantitative survey to examine specific competences of teachers.
  4. Teachers’ training module, whose development will be guided by the survey results and which will then subsequently be tested (in cooperation with University of Education, Freiburg).
Prof. Dr. Ullrich Bauer
-subproject leader-
Bielefeld University
Prof. Dr. Uwe Bittlingmayer
Freiburg University of Education
Dirk Bruland
-contact person-
Bielefeld University
Prof. Dr. Frank Faulbaum
Sozialwissenschaftliches UmfrageZentrum GmbH
Dr. Paulo Pinheiro
Bielefeld University
Stefanie Harsch
Freiburg University of Education