Mental health issues have become one of the most talked-about barriers to learning in recent times but why is that and how can schools support students to improve their wellbeing?
To deal with mental health issues and allow students to be the best students they can be, schools need to be fully prepared with a definitive checklist and action plan to address the problem directly. As the number of mental health problems in schools continues to rise, so does the importance of a well-thought-out wellbeing policy.
Safeguarding has been rather complicated of late. Ensuring student wellbeing has never been more complex and supporting pupils through these early years has never been more important. Improving pupil well-being in schools requires a holistic approach, involving both teachers and parents.
The introduction of wellbeing policies has increased in recent years with schools having a responsibility to fully understand the importance of creating a positive learning environment, allowing students to reach their full potential, and protect their mental health during times of stress. That’s why Digithrive For Schools has put together some tips to help you along the way.
Firstly… What is wellbeing?
Well-being is the experience of health and happiness. It includes mental and physical health, physical and emotional safety, and a feeling of belonging, sense of purpose, achievement, and success.
The vision of wellness is made up of a set of personal needs, such as achieving a purpose in what you do, being physically fit, being involved in your community, and having an active support network of friends and family.
1. Communicate with parents
The recent lockdowns have bought to attention the importance of the relationship between home and school life. Even though these lockdowns have eased, clear and consistent communication is still key for building trust and confidence in parents.
Schools have made excellent reassurances that pupils and parents are not alone. Continuing with online meetings with parents is essential and valuable. Annual parenting evenings are not enough during these times when children are experiencing academic and emotional difficulties whilst they are catching up with lost schooling. Schools should be communicating with parents more frequently and keeping the lines of communication open.
2. Communicate with pupils
Opening conversations calmly and confidently in schools can inspire children and young people to understand that mental health is something we all have and that we need to be aware of and learn skills to care for it and importantly, we can also ask for help when we need it.
Depending on the educational stage you teach, the reasons for starting these conversations may be different.
In primary schools
It’s important for younger children to understand that the changes that occur in their bodies are connected to their thoughts and feelings. A good example of this could be to discuss that when they run fast their heart beats quicker which is the same if they become scared or nervous. By explaining these concepts you are getting children to think about how feelings and thoughts are linked to behaviour. You can then go on to explain how a combination of these can affect our mental wellbeing.
In secondary schools and further education settings
If you work with older children, it is important that they know that it is okay to ask for help. Talking about mental wellbeing regularly will help pupils understand that we all have mental health and that there is no stigma in talking about it.
You can also start a conversation about mental wellbeing if you notice changes in a student. Being able to have these conversations is very important as they will help you find out if they need support, are in crisis or need specialised help.
3. Creating a school wellbeing policy
A good wellbeing policy should consider all stakeholders (students, parents, and teachers). It should map the actions taken by staff to improve school culture and describe how wellbeing will be monitored. Here’s a basic outline of what your school’s wellbeing guide should include:
- Introduction: Introduce the importance of mental health and wellbeing and explain its importance and suitability for your school culture.
- Definition: Explain what wellbeing means and what it means for your school. Some definitions vary, so be sure to clarify the exact definition you are using.
- Intentions: State your intentions and what you want your school’s wellbeing policy to accomplish. If there are specific areas you are focusing on, be sure to mention them here.
- Whole school approach to well-being: Describes in detail the school policy and specific areas and measures taken to improve the school environment for your pupils.
- Policy Development: Consider how and when this policy will be updated with policy changes after further investigation and how parents will be informed of any changes made.
- Team Responsibilities – Think about team responsibilities. What staff should do to improve wellbeing in your school? Ensuring consistency among staff is essential for the implementation of the school’s wellbeing policy.
- Supporting students – Explain how you intend to support the wellbeing and development of students with mental health needs and how staff can support students with these needs.
- Involvement of parents and guardians – Have an easy-to-follow process for staff to follow and involve parents and guardians in welfare matters.
- Staff Training – Clearly establish the training and support you intend to provide to staff to properly prepare them for dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues at school
- Monitoring and evaluation – Explain in detail how the school intends to monitor the wellbeing of your students.
The mental health and wellbeing of pupils is one of the most important issues facing education and we want to encourage schools to incorporate informed mental health and wellbeing programs into the whole school approach. Social and emotional learning support programs can significantly improve outcomes but at the same time, a good education can be a factor for mental health.
If you would like more professional tips on marketing your schools do get in touch with the Digithrive For School’s team who are always happy to help. contact us here