As an educational organisation focused on raising awareness and improving the wellbeing of those involved in education, it's very disheartening to hear that an estimated one in ten children and young people have a diagnosable mental disorder. Shockingly, that's the equivalent of three pupils in every classroom across the country. (DFE Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges)
A recent Survey by the NUT and YouGov (Teacher Survey on Government Education Policy), stated that 53% of teachers were considering leaving the profession within the next two years. In addition to this alarming metric, 61% of teachers stated the reasons they have considered leaving were down to the volume of workload on top of the 57% percent who outlined that a poor work/life balance was to blame.
In this extensive 3 part blog post, I'll be covering ways in which schools can raise awareness on mental health and positive well-being, how they can offer preventative support and effective ways to engage and involve parents and families.
Part 1: Raising Awareness And Delivering Information (Published 27th November 2017)
Raising Awareness And Delivering Information
The understanding of mental health and where individuals can go for support is essential in eradicating stigmas and ensuring that mental health stops being a taboo subject. It's unsurprising that there are a number of unflattering and misinformed stereotypes surrounding people with mental health issues and these negative and one-sided attitudes need to change.
Both teachers and schools have a tremendous responsibility to positively raise awareness for mental health and wellbeing in education as well as ensuring parents and guardians are fully involved.
Mental Health Trackers
Understanding your emotions and knowing your triggers can be incredibly powerful in improving yourself or your students understanding of positive wellbeing and how it can be maintained and managed. There are so many trackers out there designed to identify aspects of mental health such as 'Your Year According to Your Moods', sleeping patterns and even analysing and looking at patterns between your habits and your emotional state.
In addition to Mental Health trackers, there are a number of popular logs and mindfulness reminders people can replicate. For example, both students and teachers can have a journal filled with prompts relating to mindfulness techniques such as self-reflection, and self – care.
Should you or your students seek some ideas for their own mental health and self-care trackers, check out 21 Genius Ways To Track Your Mental Health by Anna Borges on Buzzfeed.
Awareness And Support Boards
Eye-catching and informative display boards in classrooms, corridors or the staffroom is a sure fire way to keep students and staff members up to date with tips, advice and places to go in regards to improving and maintaining their wellbeing.
This idea could be transformed into a vibrant and engaging lesson, where you allow your pupils to take ownership of the displays it by and ask them to research key information sources to include and what the final design is going to be in order to produce a meaningful resource.
An alternative for this is using display boards to inspire students to share messages of support and encouragement to individuals to give them a positive boost.
Should you be stuck for ideas for a good awareness board, check sites such as Pinterest for some fantastic gems of inspiration.
The vast majority of Primary and Secondary schools have awareness days or even weeks for popular organisations or events such as Children In Need, Red Nose Day, Sports Week and Arts Week. Encourage your school to plan an awareness day or week based on any key dates and events in the mental health awareness calendar.
February - Time to Talk Day, Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Children's Mental Health Week
March - University Mental Health Day, World Bipolar Day
April- Stress Awareness Month
May- Mental Health Awareness Week
September - World Suicide Prevention Day
October - World Mental Health Day
November - National Stress Awareness Day, Anti-bullying week
Whilst staff training, new resources and guest speakers are hugely effective at raising awareness and accurately informing individuals of good mental health and wellbeing, schools with limited funding simply can't afford to utilise them as regularly as they would like to. With that in mind, online videos are not only a cost-effective but powerful way of engaging and educating individuals within schools.
Just recently, the BBC launched a series of animated videos aimed at Primary Teachers as a resource to be used when on the subject of mental health. In addition to this, there are a number of brilliant videos available on sites such as YouTube and specialist mindfulness and wellbeing sites.
Assemblies are crucial in promoting a positive and accepting school culture, as well as being an important way to share information surrounding mental health. Assemblies offer many opportunities to encourage an open environment for staff and students to talk about mental health. Some popular topics for school assemblies in relation to mental health and wellbeing can include, bullying, coping with stress and mindfulness. Guest speakers from external organisations such as charities such as Mind, and Place2Be and are another great option for an assembly.
The DFE research undertaken in its recent Survey shows that structured learning sessions make a positive impact on children and can easily be incorporated into regular time times or PSHE lessons.
The PSHE association have recently created a number of lesson plans, in collaboration with the Department of Education (View lesson plans here). There are lesson plans for students in KS1 all the way up to KS4 which ensure that teachers address an array of common mental health issues in young people, promote wellbeing and resilience from an early stage and make certain that teaching is appropriate to the age and maturity of pupils.
An LA maintained Secondary school who took part in the recent DFE survey had upper year students write a school and parent newsletter every fortnight, as well as organising events such as Mindfulness Week.