2019 has already been a promising year for mental health awareness and support in the UK. The year began with the government promising a boost in funding for under-18 mental healthcare and there are many proposed changes around the corner for mental health in schools. While the changes are pointing in the right direction, educational leaders are still faced with the growing challenge of implementing positive mental health in schools quickly and effectively.
In 2017, the NHS reported that one in every eight children aged between five and nineteen have a mental health disorder, amongst which one in twelve have an emotional disorder and one in twenty have a behavioural disorder. This growing rate of mental health problems puts a great pressure on educational leaders to plan ahead and use innovative strategies for intervention and support.
Promoting Positive Mental Health in Schools
There are many resources available that provide ideas and advice on positive mental health planning for children of all ages. Different organisations have produced their own resources that are easily accessible, such as the ‘Well-being Week’ pack produced by the Mental Health Foundation. The pack outlines five well-being actions, including: connect, being mindful, and giving to others.
In the Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges report from the Department of Education, there’s also an outline of a number of ways that schools promoted mental health in 2017, including the use of pastoral support teams, cross-curriculum discussions on mental health, improved cultures, and Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) classes.
Some of the further plans implemented by schools in recent years, as outlined in the Department of Education report, include:
• Using form time to talk about issues through informal chats.
• Raising awareness of mental health in assembly.
• Creating mixed age group house systems for support.
• Creating additional resources and material about mental health.
• Structuring the timetable to allow for activities that are beneficial to mental health.
Schools that value positive mental health through a whole school approach create a good partnership between everyone involved in school life, from the leadership team to the community – changing the school environment to promote positive mental health at every level. Positive mental health practices in schools, from teaching awareness to providing support, can be implemented in many ways, but each scheme must be planned carefully as part of an overall plan for positive mental health.
Planning Ahead for Major Changes to Mental Health Policies
Planning and implementing new schemes for mental health awareness and support in schools is only one challenge facing educational leaders. New government proposals will see a much larger change to school curriculum in the coming years with the proposed introduction of compulsory mental health education.
With new teaching materials set to become available in 2019, planning will need to get underway before the proposed rollout of the new curriculum for schools in 2020. While the future of mental health in schools is looking brighter, educational leaders have a lot of planning ahead if they want to get ready for the government’s larger agenda of changes in the coming years.
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