BLOG POST 1:
MENTAL HEALTH IN SCHOOLS
Implementing Mental Health Initiatives Effectively Overview
About 6 or 7 years ago, I began to realise the significant importance of mental health education in Schools. As someone with lived experience with Depression and Anxiety in both myself and a family member close to me, I knew the importance of taking care of our own mental health. Through my own journey I discovered:
- the significant role that negative talk plays in one’s own mental health
- the 13 distorted ways of thinking that are so relevant for many people
- the importance of a sense of belonging and connection and how critical it is for everyone (even though it can look quite different for each person)
- the lack of a shared understanding of mental health and mental health difficulties across communities and within schools
- the terrifying statistics that are associated with mental health issues and the prevalence of it in our youth
- how challenging it can be to seek help when even I, as a very confident, outgoing and happy person, had difficulties
- the importance of a planned approach to mental health improvement
- the need to approach behaviour and mental health improvements together and align school processes for these two important areas for a student’s overall wellbeing
- the need to see mental health improvement as one part of an overall focus on developing a culture of wellbeing
School curriculums are already terribly overcrowded and while many teachers and schools are looking to improve approaches to student mental health and wellbeing, they are struggling to know where to start and what to do (other than simply implementing a whole school social and emotional programme).
I believe that it is critical to actively teach mental health strategies to our students much as we would teach them to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. Students need to have a variety of strategies under their belt to understand their own mental health journey, know where to turn and strategies to utilise if they struggle with their mental health both now and into their adult lives and support and show compassion to those around them who may struggle with their mental health.
As a passionate advocate for behaviour improvement in schools, I believe it is important to consider these two areas together and strive to look beyond behaviour when working with young people. While mental health will not always be the cause of behavioural issues, looking at the two areas together can provide an opportunity for teachable moments and a chance to truly make a difference for a student.
I do not believe that there is one model that fits every school and every setting for mental health improvement. Instead I believe that if we follow a process and framework for change we can improve mental health approaches in every school and for every student while making the improvements matched to the local setting and relevant to the local environment.
I have worked in Education for over 20 years and have created and led action teams for both student mental health and wellbeing and behaviour. I have used my passion for mental health to also look beyond the school walls and create and Chair a Community Mental Health Action Team. Based on my experience in these key areas I have developed a thorough understanding of processes that are effective and as a result have created a step-by-step process that I believe are effective in improving student mental health and wellbeing in schools.
Over the next few months I will be writing about the steps that I believe you can use to improve student mental health and wellbeing in your school.
I will cover:
- Where to start and Key areas to consider improving and developing
- Useful strategies for setting up an effective action team
- Use of an implementation ladder and how to make one work for your team
- Starting Point: A Shared Understanding of Mental Health
- Collecting baseline data: Reasons for & what to collect
- Collecting baseline data: Making it work for you & Free Templates to try
- How to Identify local protective and risk factors
- Creating a mentally healthy & positive school community
- The importance of relationships
- Creating opportunities for social connection and belonging
- School Based Mental Health Promotion
- Whole School Social & Emotional Programmes
- Focus Areas to work on when supporting student mental health
- Student Services Teams and Effective Processes
- Writing and using a Student Engagement Plan
- Resources for supporting Parents and students through mental health difficulties
- Critical incidents and response planning
- Staff wellbeing and self care
- Tying it all together and creating a Culture of Wellbeing
- Implementing Behaviour and Mental Health approaches together
- What about the idea of community support for student mental health
Over the next few months, I will be writing an individual blog on each of the above areas in a step-by-step approach so that you can make this change happen effectively in your own local setting.
If you would like to keep up to date with blog posts as they are released, please subscribe to my free newsletter and you will receive 5 strategies to immediately improve mental health or behaviour initiatives in your school.