Updated: Nov 19
Mental health awareness is a continuously growing concern across the globe, but it is especially important in schools. Teachers and administrators understand more and more how significant of a role they play in the well-being of their pupils.
But how can we develop a better approach to mental health awareness in school?
The problem is, even though awareness is higher than it has ever been, we’re only just beginning to understand how to talk about mental health and well-being in open and honest conversation.
Miff Martinek and her team at This Is Me want to work with schools to build more than just awareness. They are helping both teachers and pupils find the actual words to talk to each other about mental health as part of their regular daily practice.
The more they talk about it, the more supported and in control of their mental wellness pupils will feel, helping to set them up for a brighter future.
What does mental health awareness mean?
Why does mental health in schools need to improve?
How can we promote better mental health?
Why is developing these skills so key?
How can schools get involved?
What Does Mental Health Awareness Mean?
So, when we think about mental health awareness, particularly in that school setting, we’re thinking about making sure that everybody has an understanding of their mental health, other people’s mental health, and the ability to interact and engage with it properly.
Now, what you’ll find actually is that the generation that is in school at the moment is probably more of their mental health than any generation before. Young people today are much more ready to have conversations about their well-being than we have in the past.
The challenge that schools are facing is that the rest of the community needs to catch up. We teachers need to catch up.
Parents need to be involved as well. We need to work on how to have that conversation around mental health confidently and how to support our young people in school.
Why Does Mental Health in Schools Need to Improve?
There are a lot of statistics that have come out around the mental health of young people. There was a report released in 2019 called the State of a Generation that focused on the declining well-being of our teenagers.
There is a challenge there; there are struggles. But we’ve been working really hard at raising awareness, and that’s the first step towards making it better.
The struggle now is that we’ve only been talking about awareness. We need to complement that with learning the necessary skills to talk confidently and comfortably about what's going on in our heads.
How Can We Promote Better Mental Health?
When we’re thinking about actually improving mental health in schools, we need to think about the whole community.
We need to understand that the mental health part of it is just one piece of a puzzle that is much bigger than we think.
To promote better mental health, we should think about changing the language we’re using and getting really comfortable talking about how we’re doing and feeling day-to-day.
It doesn’t need to be that mental health is a diagnosis. We’re here to talk about having a rough day, having a good day, and all of those feeling in between. We should be able to talk about those challenges that we all face without any stigma or worry.
Hopefully, by doing that with our pupils, at home with parents, and with teachers, we’re creating an environment where it’s actually okay just to have a rough day. It’s okay to chat about it and move forward.
Why is Developing These Skills So Key?
For quite some time, we’ve seen well-being as something that needs to be done in schools. It’s a box that needs to be ticked.
But the reality is that unless we get to the core of people feeling personally responsible and capable of managing their own well-being, we aren’t going to make a lasting difference. Young people are going to come through school, have some nice well-being-focused experiences, but not actually have any skills to move forward with them.
Instead of focusing on well-being events, nice activities, and these sort of small pockets of time, we need to focus on developing the skills and the opportunities to practice using language that helps us explore how we’re feeling and how people around us are feeling.
Learning how to talk a little bit more openly about what’s going on helps prevent us from reaching that point of feeling overwhelmed as and when issues arise.
How Can Schools Get Involved?
If you’re a teacher or part of a school looking to promote a refreshed approach to your well-being strategy, and you’re ready to embrace that personal accountability at the core of what we’ll be doing, we’d love to hear from you.
I work with only a small group of schools each term, and my team and I help them shape and change the way that they are talking about well-being on a day-to-day basis.
If you want to explore how pupil mentoring can improve wellbeing in your school within the Hereford and Wiltshire area, I'd love to hear from you.