Role of School Health Officers in Mental Health Care for Secondary School Students in Can Tho City, Vietnam

Dat Tan Nguyen*, E. Pamela Wright, Tam Thi Pham, Joske Bunders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The objectives of the study were to explore the experiences of school health officers in identifying and managing mental health problems of secondary school students and to gather recommendations from the school officers for improving the effectiveness of mental health care in secondary schools in Can Tho City, Vietnam. We conducted a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews using a semi-structured guideline with 15 school health officers at 15 secondary schools in Can Tho City, Vietnam. Data were analyzed using content-driven analysis to identify recurring themes. The school health officers reported that stress, depression, suicidal ideation, and sexual orientation issues were the most commonly encountered mental health problems among their students. The officers worked with a limited range of interventions for helping these students, such as giving non-narcotic analgesics or advising students to take a short break at school or to go home. Most of them felt that their training was insufficient to deal with mental health problems in an optimal way. They recommended further training to improve their knowledge and skills in recognizing and managing mental health problems in students. They also considered a university-sponsored mental health website a good source of information on mental health care for students. School health officers reported that they did not feel well equipped to manage mental health problems because of insufficient training, lack confidence, and absence of an appropriate network for advice and referral. Updated policies and programs are needed for initial training and refresher courses, which will strengthen the role of school health officers as first line support for secondary school students with mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-811
Number of pages11
JournalSchool Mental Health
Issue number4
Early online date1 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Mental health care
  • School health officers
  • School nurse
  • Students
  • Vietnam


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