5 things schools can do to help children’s mental health

Mental Health Foundation Stress Banner

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the Mental Health Foundation is focusing on stress. According to the Mental health Foundation “two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.”

Tes’ mental health columnist, Natasha Devon, argues that schools can help Mental Health Awareness Week by sending an unequivocal message that mental health matters, not just during Mental health Awareness Week, but all year round.

The Guardian recently reported that “The number of referrals by schools in England seeking mental health treatment for pupils has risen by more than a third in the last three years, according to figures obtained by the NSPCC” (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).

Research indicates there is a growing crisis within children’s mental health and that leaves many teachers having to deal with an increasing number of pupils suffering from stress, anxiety and panic attacks, as well as depression, self-harm and eating disorders.

Many teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they face as a result of the rise in mental health problems in children. But there are things schools can do to help. Here are five ways schools can help support children’s wellbeing at school.

1 – Start talking about mental health

There is still a stigma about mental health in mainstream society so it’s really important that schools open up a dialogue about it. At the very least more open discussions will increase understanding and reduce stigma around some of the issues children face.

2 – Address bullying in school

Students need to feel safe at school. Educating children about the effects of bullying and having a positive anti-bullying policy in school will help children to develop respect for each other.

3 – Support staff well-being

Staff can only improve the support they give to pupils when they are feeling supported and healthy themselves. Wellness at work will have a positive impact on the school environment and will definitely filter down to pupils.

4 – Offer training in mental health

Last year the Guardian reported that more than half of primary school teachers say they do not feel adequately trained in supporting children with mental health problems. Early intervention is crucial for children’s wellbeing and for that to happen teachers need adequate training to identify any issues. With many schools having to cut their pastoral and mental health support services because of budget pressures, it is up to headteachers to demand mental health training for all new teachers.

5 – Run after school social activities and mentoring

Extracurricular activities have been shown to have a positive effect on children’s wellbeing. Equally, peer mentoring and staff mentoring for vulnerable students provides an extra layer of support for those struggling with emotions and the challenges at school.

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