This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, a campaign set up by charity Place2Be. It is in place to shine a spotlight on the importance of young people’s mental health.
In a recent survey, over 80% of educational staff questioned said they have witnessed an increase in the number of children suffering from poor mental health. Many described a sense of helplessness in dealing with it.
Over the course of their education, children will spend close to 8,000 hours in school – so education professionals clearly have a role to play. But what can they do?
The first step is to create an open and welcoming space for the discussion within your classroom. The best way to deal with mental health issues is to be able to talk openly about them. Creating an environment in which the pupils feel comfortable discussing the topic will help those suffering to open up.
This can be done in various ways. It could be integrated into the classroom, using display boards or having it as a daily theme during tutor time. Helping the students to learn more about the various mental health illnesses and building their understanding generally will help them deal with it better now and further down the line.
Often, people struggling with their mental health just want someone to listen to them. Doing this can help them endless amounts.
For them, being able to speak to a teacher or member of staff and being greeting by empathy will provide them with confidence and will make them feel better about themselves.
Don’t try and fix the problem or get them to come back another time. This will make them feel unwelcomed and lonely. Take some time, listen to the problems and reassure them. Acknowledge how they are feeling and try to understand their point of view.
If you are worried about their safety, make sure you follow your school’s safeguarding procedure.
Promote wellbeing in your lessons and general demeanour. Encouraging an active lifestyle with a healthy diet is a good start. These are sure fire ways of leading to improved mental health.
It is also important to treat every child as an individual, with individual needs. Sometimes, in the world of exam results and academic achievements, pupils can find themselves feeling like just another number. Encourage them to express themselves, be themselves and remind them that everyone is individual, and everyone is equally special.
Finally – it’s important to start with yourself.
No one can help others with mental health problems if they are not feeling mentally well themselves. Seek help from colleagues, friends, family or a GP if you don’t feel right. Focus on your own wellbeing, support yourself and practise what you preach.
Looking after number one will help you support the pupils in your classroom.