How to support your pupils' mental health

How to support your pupils' mental health


10th October 2018 is World Mental Health Day.

World Mental Health Day aims to get people talking freely and openly about mental illness, treatment and prevention available to everyone.

And you’re never too young to start!

Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people.

They include depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.

Some key risk factors for developing mental health issues are:

  • having a parent who has had mental health problems, problems with alcohol or has been in trouble with the law – if one or both of your primary care givers are struggling with their own mental health issues; they are likely not to be fully responsive to meeting the child needs. Chaotic, absent or neglectful parenting creates a climate of instability that can leave children vulnerable to physical and mental health complaints.
  • having been severely bullied or physically or sexually abused – evidence continues to grow about the long term effects of bullying, physical and sexual abuse. Under these circumstances, children may find it difficult to trust others and develop healthy relationships and support systems, leading to feelings of isolation and despair.
  • having long standing educational difficulties – struggling to access learning, low achievement and behavioural difficulties are proven to have negative, long term psychological effects. According to a recent report in The Guardian, exclusion from school will also compound these issues.

But wait!

There’s an important point to make here: whether or not people develop mental health problems is not solely linked to the trauma they experience.

Two individuals may experience the exact same external event, but their internal reactions to that event may be completely different. For  example, getting mugged in the street.

Person A may be mugged and be shaken up, but will quickly ‘bounce back’ suffering no long term side effects. Whilst person B may be mugged in the street and their internal reaction will be quite different; perhaps leading to feelings of vulnerability, insecurity, paranoia and long term mental health issues.

So, who will, or will not develop mental health problems can be tricky to predict.

Some key protective factors have been identified:

  • feeling they have some control over their own life – when a person feels that they can make choices and determine their own destiny, they automatically feel empowered and more able to cope with things that life throws at them.
  • having strength to cope when something goes wrong (resilience) and the ability to solve problems – believing that bad times pass and are followed by good, and being able to bounce back from adversity is key to surviving and staying mentally well
  • going to a school that looks after the well being of all its pupils – when pupils believe that their teachers care about them, and they are explicitly taught coping strategies, they tend to have stronger insulation against mental health problems.

Read the full list of risk and protective factors from Mental Health Foundation

One of the ways that schools can look after the well being of its pupils is to help them to understand, identify, and name their emotions.

Meaning that they will be:

  • more able to articulate their feelings
  • better equipped to self regulate
  • more likely to seek and accept help from others.

To support you with introducing this concept in your school, I’ve created the Managing Feelings resource  –  a done-for you presentation .

Use the resource in assembly or as a class lesson, to introduce the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours ( includes 7 practical strategies for coping with powerful feelings such as anger).

Download it today and start equipping your pupils with the tools they need!

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