Concern over the mental well-being of children in the UK is growing, with startling new statistics, like 1 in 8 children having a mental disorder, highlighting the importance of positive mental health. But how can you deliver positive mental health in schools?
Here are five examples of strategies that you can adopt to increase awareness of mental health and create a positive environment for mental health support:
Teaching Mental Health in PSHE Classes
Currently, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) classes are not a compulsory part of the curriculum in the UK, despite research showing that 93% of mental health education is provided in PSHE classes. This is set to change in 2020 as mental health education becomes a compulsory part of the curriculum.
PSHE education has been shown to improve well-being, increase academic performance, and promote positive relationships, making it highly beneficial to positive mental health.
Appointing Champions for Mental Health
Loneliness is a widespread problem amongst children in the UK, with 1 in 5 children between the ages of 7 and 12 reporting that they feel lonely. Feeling lonely has been closely linked with poor mental health and can impact academic performance.
One way to help identify loneliness and monitor mental health is to appoint champions for mental health within schools. A champion can be a teacher in regular contact with a child or another member of staff who knows the child and can provide ongoing support and guidance through regular conversations.
Teaching Students About All Sides of Mental Health
To create a positive school environment for mental health, working towards removing the stigma attached to mental health problems can be very beneficial. Mental health topics can be included in many different subjects, such as Science, History, and English.
Science lessons could address the biological side of brain function, history lessons can look at historic figures with mental illnesses who have accomplished great things, and English lessons can examine the representation of mental health in the media; there are many ways to explore the different sides of mental health.
Organising a Mental Health Week
Many schools in the UK and around the world already host a mental health or wellness week in some form. The week can be designed to bring mental health awareness to the forefront of minds with tailored activities surrounding mental health.
There are some great ways that the whole school can get involved in the week, from raising money for mental health charities through fun events to lessons and activities that are designed to encourage positive mental health.
Focusing on Specialist Support and Teacher Awareness
Ensuring that teachers are able to identify signs of mental health problems and are aware of how mental health can affect student behaviour is important for early intervention, but many schools are going one step further and providing specialist care for students when they need it.
Well-being workers can provide additional support when teachers are unable to support students with certain mental health problems, reassuring students that help is always available. The benefit of mental health support teams is so substantial that the government has established a scheme for mental health teams to work in conjunction with schools. The first implementation of the scheme is expected in late 2019.