Keeping an eye on your students’ wellbeing, as well as their academic progress, is critical. In November 2018 the NHS reported that one in eight children and young people (aged 5-19) had a diagnosable mental disorder1, and of these, over a quarter of those aged 11-16 had either self-harmed or attempted suicide2. There are innumerable factors contributing to mental illness among school-age children and young adults, and of course, the pressures and anxieties of school life are among them. While teachers and pastoral staff might be unable to remove or meaningfully mitigate the acute sources of stress, anxiety and depression, both at school and at home – we can work to help students become more aware of their own mental and emotional wellbeing, and learn ways to manage it. Mental illness can not only have disastrous effects on a student’s academic outcomes, but it can also lead to the tragic loss of life.
*Disclaimer: Suggestions given in this article should not be substituted for, or interpreted as being, medical advice. The Government has announced new services to assist schools who wish to refer at-risk individuals to NHS services, you can find out more here.
Putting Wellbeing Centre Stage
We as a society are making strides towards normalizing and de-stigmatising the recognition of mental illness, and the erosion of wellbeing that often leads to it. However, teaching students about what wellbeing is, how to look after it as well as recognise when there’s a problem is a critical step in helping children and young people into healthy adulthood. How can we do that?
• Teacher Training
Scheduling in time for training sessions on children and adolescent mental health, as well as clinically approved remedial and preventative methods, can give teachers the tools to both identify at-risk individuals as well as to know when, and how to intervene.
• Normalise a caring culture
Believing that mental health and emotional issues are nothing to be ashamed of is important, and so promoting a culture of tolerance, openness and understanding to these issues can not only help young people engage more with staff about their own wellbeing but can actually work to remove exacerbating factors, such as perceptions of shame. Talking about wellbeing is key to the foundations of such a culture, including special classes surrounding wellbeing, school philosophies and mottos, and introduction to the ideas of wellbeing and emotional intelligence as soon as possible.
Creating a Management Programme
Acting equally as a monitoring tool and a way to reinforce a caring culture, wellbeing reviews and check-ins can help immensely in making students feel supported and confident in seeking help whenever they need it. To that end, a student wellbeing diary, or a customised wellbeing section in a custom school planner can not only contain information on wellbeing and techniques to manage it (such as mindfulness, meditation and exercise), but also serve to help individual students learn more about their own wellbeing, how it’s doing and what affects it – such as discovering key contributors to stress and anxiety, or situations that can act as triggers.
The Caring Culture
These are just a few ideas to help develop a learning environment which puts wellbeing and understanding in the spotlight – helping to curate positive attitudes towards the issues of mental health in schools and colleges. Personalised Student Planners can help define and reinforce cultures and attitudes, just as uniforms promote equality and policies define boundaries.
 https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/latest-news/one-in-eight-of-five-to-19-year-olds-had-a-mental-disorder-in-2017-major-new-survey-finds | Retrieved 27/10/2019