How to Better Mental Health for your Students
This helpful guide is intended to help teachers foster a school and classroom environment where children can enjoy better Mental Health & Wellbeing.
It is arguably more important than ever that children are encouraged, supported and looked after with regards to their Mental Health and Wellbeing on a daily basis. With the vital role technology plays in the modern world and the comparative lack of ‘downtime’ versus that enjoyed by previous generations, we’ll offer insight into how you, as teachers, can help children with their Mental Health & Wellbeing in school.
What are Mental Health & Wellbeing & why are they important?
Mental Health & Wellbeing aren’t just buzzwords. While it’s undeniable that both are very prominent in the media at the moment (and rightly so), we see them as still perhaps the most misunderstood and mismanaged aspects of human health in the world right now. Mental Health & Wellbeing play huge roles in what we do, how we feel, how we respond to things and connect with others. As adults from a generation pre-smartphones, we generally understand that and though we can sometimes admit to having been slightly naive about the full implications they play, generally we have a pretty good understanding of the subject.
The difficulty is, children now are subjected to so many different emotions and interact with one-another completely differently and perhaps, aren’t as well equipped to process and deal with the many stresses life throws at them in general, never mind when you add the additional social pressures brought about by social media.
While arguably a lot of this stuff happens outside of school, children spend the vast majority of their time in school and as such every aspect of their life is intrinsically linked. The problem faced by teachers today is that students won’t just openly speak about how they’re feeling – as a teenager we probably all remember grunting when asked how we were doing but when you consider these same people will happily share a status on Facebook concerning deep insight into their lives, surely there is a way of reaching them?
Good Mental Health equips us with the ability to own life and deal with the emotional rollercoaster it can be. It gives us control and it allows us the courage to speak when we are ever feeling down.
How you can create a happier, healthier school
First of all you’re probably not going to change everything overnight as just one person and mass change requires buy-in from the entire school community.
That said, the great news is, it doesn’t matter to what extent your school community currently supports Mental Health and Wellbeing, there are still much quicker things you can do as an individual teacher to improve the situation. The following comes directly from the ‘Make it Count: Guide for teachers’: (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/make-it-count-guide-for-teachers)
In the classroom
Here are a few suggestions to incorporate mentally-healthy practice into your classroom:
Talk about mental health
One of the most important things you can do is to talk to pupils about mental health in a non-stigmatising way, explaining that it affects us all and is not black and white but a spectrum. The What’s on your Mind? resources by See Me provide some helpful guidance on how to do this.
Share the five ways to wellbeing
The five ways messages are simple to understand and easily adapted to age ranges across primary and secondary schools. They could be integrated into the classroom, for example by creating a display board or by using each of the ways as a daily theme for form/tutor time.
If you teach PSHE Take a look at the PSHE Association’s Guidance on preparing to teach about mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Model good habits
Children often learn from copying what they see around them. Sharing with them the ways that you take care of your own mental health can help normalise the idea of looking after our mental as well as physical health.
Listen and empathise
If a pupil shares their worries with you, try to empathise rather than giving advice, trying to ‘fix’ their problem or immediately referring them on to another staff member or service.
Empathy involves acknowledging what the young person is feeling, attempting to understand things from their point of view and avoiding judgement. If you have any concerns about their safety, follow your school’s safeguarding policy and discuss with your designated safeguarding lead.
Check-In with your students
What does this mean? Well, earlier we talked about the fact that young people today use smartphones constantly and always have their device handy. They are more likely to engage through their phone, and often can be found messaging friends, refreshing feeds – you name it!
As parents and leaders ourselves, we get it. That’s why the heart of our system is designed with the student in mind – their interaction is quick, simple and via their smartphone. We don’t want to intrude into their lives, we just want the opportunity to ‘Check-In’ on their terms and use the data to help you, the people who support them.
Our Wellbeing ‘Check In’ is designed by Mental Health experts to do just that – it won’t replace your current interactions with students but it will supply you with key INSIGHT into which students need you most.
We want to give you the freedom (and the time) to make the difference.
You can find out more about our Student Wellbeing platform here: https://govox.co.uk/student-wellbeing