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Why is mental health awareness important in schools?

why is mental health awareness important in schools

We’ve all been through a lot in the last year and a half, and unfortunately, it shows in the declining mental wellbeing of many young people.

Because pupils spend half their days in school, more mental health awareness in that environment would be enormously beneficial for increased mental wellness.

With the proper training and structures in place, teachers can have a significant impact on building and maintaining positive wellbeing in their pupils and helping them develop the skills they need to support their own mental health.

Miff Martinek, founder of This Is Me, explains why mental health awareness is so important in schools and how it can positively affect young people.

We cover:

  • Why is school mental health awareness important?

  • What can schools do to improve awareness?

  • How can schools act on increased awareness?

  • How can my school get involved?

Why is school mental health awareness important?

Since the pandemic, we've all felt like we’ve been hit by a sledgehammer when it comes to our wellbeing.

Many of us have felt social anxiety; we've experienced loss through the pandemic. Or, for some, it might just be boredom or possibly loneliness. But none of us has come through the pandemic with our wellbeing entirely intact.

Some of us have improved, and we feel fine now, but we all had a rough patch. And when you look at the statistics on mental health, they’re still rubbish.

Those statistics create a slightly resigned sensation when we think about how to improve mental wellbeing, particularly for young people. Especially when we see their mental health continues to decline.

It's not working, and we've now gone through a period of time where we know that there will be even more stress. We’re closer to our breaking points than ever before.

So this must be the point where we draw a line in the sand. We need to move forward with a new and refreshed approach to mental health.

What can schools do to improve awareness?

There has been a rather vague approach to raising awareness for a really long time when it comes to mental health in schools.

While we all need to improve our awareness, we also need to be able to do something with it.

A key part of that is training teachers and school staff to have conversations with young people about mental health and wellbeing. We should also look at building the confidence to move forward and take that awareness and turn it into plans and actions.

So, the first step of that is clearly understanding how poor mental health happens.

Now, for some people, mental health challenges are an inevitability. That is a really horrible thing to accept, but fortunately, that applies to only a small pocket of people.

For the vast majority, it happens when young people feel overwhelmed, and they don't get a break or the opportunity to start resolving their everyday problems.

Then, those problems build up more and more and result in feeling powerless. Some will develop anxiety, possibly depression. But every young person who doesn’t know how to deal with and resolve more minor issues will start to struggle with their mental health on some level.

How can schools act on increased awareness?

Firstly, we need to understand where schools and teachers can interrupt that pattern in the early stage when those problems are few or small. Schools need to be able to identify when someone is beginning to struggle before the point of them developing a diagnosable mental health problem.

The next point that schools need to look at is knowing how to prevent that escalation. Teachers need to understand how to intervene at that really early stage, and there needs to be a structure in place that identifies when someone is struggling.

The last part of it is advocating personal responsibility for mental health.

Now, this feels really backwards.

As adults, we want to care for young people. We want to wrap them up and make sure that they are safe. That is certainly how we've always treated safeguarding.

But the reality is that we have all got to take personal responsibility for our mental health. So our job as educators is to give young people the empowerment and skills to talk about their mental health proactively.

We want pupils to have the confidence to go and take action when they feel it slipping. Just as importantly, we want them to know who they can turn to and where they can get some support.

So, recognising that personal responsibility and accountability is an essential part of caring for mental health will be the key ingredient that I feel has been missing from the mental health awareness we've been doing so far.

How can my school get involved?

Schools that are interested in embedding accountability and personal responsibility at the core of their wellbeing and mental health strategy are perfect candidates for our program.

If you want to explore how mental health awareness and pupil mentoring can improve wellbeing in your school within the Hereford and Wiltshire area, I'd love to hear from you.

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