One in ten children will experience a mental health difficulty at least once before age 11, and many adults with lifetime mental health issues can trace their symptoms back to childhood.
We also know that many children can wait up to ten years before effective diagnosis or treatment.
Mental health support in schools can make a significant difference in a person’s life, but teachers are already stretched and with so many resources available, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Mentally Healthy Classrooms
Teachers do a huge amount to ensure the mental health and well being of students’ flourish. The positive impact a teacher can have is often under estimated.
Creating a mentally healthy classroom is often a case of making small tweaks in classroom practice and the learning environment – creating a mentally healthy classroom if often very easy to achieve.
We recently worked with a school in the North West of England, we engaged the children in a fun assembly asking students “Have you filled your bucket today?”
“Have You Filled Your Bucket Today” encourages positive behaviour by using the concrete concept of an 'invisible bucket' that holds your good thoughts and feelings. When you do something kind, you fill someone's bucket; when you do something mean, you dip into someone's bucket and remove some good thoughts and feelings. This book focuses on how our social interactions positively or negatively affect others and encourages all to be kind.
Once our assembly was delivered we took the children back to their classrooms and introduced them to their wellbeing wall where they could display kind actions they have witnessed or been involved in. Displays can be used to track and reflect positively on children's learning journey, displays, done well, can support a child who is struggling to take ownership of their learning, but done badly can create a distraction and excuse to avoid tasks.
For children of all ages understanding how to learn is really important but so often we fail to teach our children and young people these simple skills. Teaching revision techniques, time management, goal setting and exam skills can not only improve attainment but also improve mental health.
For young people tutors are in a unique position to build self confidence, simple tasks such as reflective learning journals, team building exercises and one to one mentoring enable a child to realise their potential, and yet tutor time is often rushed and over looked as an important part of the day setting pupils up for their learning.
There are many simple things that can change a classroom into one that encourages well being and positive mental health, we hope to be able to provide to tools to as many schools as possible to enable them to create a healthier learning journey – whatever they age of the student.
Whole School Mental Health
In order to deliver a mentally healthy workplace, we need to be driven by a mentally healthy community including the workforce governors, senior leader, staff, students, parents and outside agencies. Through a process of focus groups, surveys and base line measures we are looking at the schools' strengths and how we can build on those to create an environment in which children and young people can thrive and learn. The key thing is that this process should create sustainable change by bringing on board all the key stakeholders.