Jenny Price, Deputy Head Pastoral
Mental Health in Schools
Can schools make a difference and are we doing enough?
In schools, we often speak about physical health and seek help readily when a physical health issue arises but what about when it comes to our mental health? Are we as quick to seek help when we have a mental health issue? I believe, that in many of our schools, the answer to this is yes and the situation is improving at a considerable and encouraging speed. Schools are doing an excellent job to help youngsters recognise when they need support and in making sure that staff are well equipped to offer support and access the right help. We all have health – physical, mental and emotional and these all need to be carefully considered if students are to achieve their potential. It is vital that schools support their staff in looking after themselves, offering training and most importantly giving staff the time to listen and support students in need. Training is readily available and schools must invest in their staff and in turn, in the future and safety of their pupils. The statistics speak for themselves – 1 in 4 of us is likely to experience ill mental health at some stage. Schools must continue to celebrate mental health awareness and ensure that students in our care are confident that we can offer support and understanding. Health and Wellbeing is a top priority in our schools and must remain so.
So how do we ensure that the pupils in our care have good mental health?
Our schools are mostly well equipped with excellent Health Centres, well stocked canteens and sports facilities to encourage as many pupils as possible to follow their passion. We have academic, drama and music clubs (and more) to stimulate the widest ranging of abilities imaginable not to mention mindfulness clubs, skills for life lessons and lessons in resilience and self-esteem. In short, schools offer a wonderful array of activities and academic pursuits but we also need to accept that at times, our pupils may struggle and it is in recognising and accepting this, that we can make a difference. By investing in our staff, we can make a start. Mental Health First Aid courses are a great starting point and are becoming a sought after necessity for teachers just as basic First Aid is. It is important that as staff we understand what youngsters are experiencing but also, how to signpost and seek the right help. The sooner this is the done the better.
Should schools have to deal with Mental Health?
Yes of course we should - it is part and parcel of who we are. We all have mental health and we should all know how to look after ourselves and each other. Teaching other pupils how to cope when friends are struggling is also desirable but also, empowering children not to have deal with the issues of others is sometimes the best way forward. If we know our children well, we can make informed and pertinent decisions. This is part of our day to day jobs in school. Offering mental health awareness training to prefects, peer mentors and also parents is vital so we all work together to secure the best help possible.
What does the future hold?
Our schools are our future. We all strive to be the best we can and by working together, empowering our staff student bodies and parents, more of us will be in a position to recognise the early signs and seek support for our youngsters. Mental health is here to stay and should be treated in the same way as we manage our physical and emotional health. Success comes from happy, well balanced children and it is our duty to provide all round support in our schools. Our students are on a journey and during their time at school, they will find themselves in situations which may cause anxiety or depression which are known to be the most common mental health problems in the UK at present. There are no hard and fast rules but if we do our best to equip our schools with the tools and resources to provide and access support, we perhaps will make that journey easier.