Teaching Mental Health Education, Are We Ready?

There has been great progress in the narrative surrounding mental health and education and it is wonderful that Shawmind, through their tremendous Headucation campaign in 2017, achieved the compulsory teaching of mental health in schools from September 2020.

But this seismic change has taken time to evolve.

When I started in the profession in the 1990s my history of anxiety and anorexia needed to stay firmly hidden away. Yet today, when teaching about resilience and wellbeing, I feel liberated to talk about lived experience and how I embed my toolkit for resilience in my daily life.

I have chosen to upskill and invest in understanding how the adolescent brain develops, concepts of neuroplasticity and the fundamentals of mental health first aid. But for some this topic will prove daunting and they will lack the necessary knowledge to teach this area effectively.

Few teachers enter the profession with substantial background training in child or adolescent development, or how best to support children’s health and wellbeing. Only a minority of staff in schools think that the training or guidance they have received has helped them to support pupils with their wellbeing and mental health (National Assembly for Wales, CYPE Committee, 2017a).

Yet from September 2020 all children in England will be taught how to look after their mental wellbeing and recognise when classmates may be struggling, as the Government unveils new guidance for the introduction of compulsory health education.

Pupils of all ages will be taught the new subject – with a focus on promoting the positive link between physical and mental health.

Yet the guidance does not detail how to understand child brain development, emotional literacy or strategies for reducing stress with self-care.

Worryingly, research also shows that around half of teachers have struggled with their own mental health due to the pressures of work. Investing in training will not only benefit pupils but will help teachers look after their own emotional health.

Stress in adults can leak into young minds which is why we should also address teacher mental health using a whole school approach. Wellbeing provision in schools is inconsistent and varies greatly across the country. This has created a postcode lottery, where some schools effectively support children to build resilience and develop their social and emotional knowledge and skills, while other schools do not.

Teachers and school staff must be well-equipped to provide the right environment for learning and wellbeing. Teachers have reported that they are acting outside of their competence and capacity in relation to children’s mental health. Teachers are often not sufficiently trained to identify signs of mental health issues or to approach these issues confidently. Despite being well intentioned they are often unable to signpost their students to get help.

Therefore, it is essential that an understanding of children’s psychological development, wellbeing, resilience and mental health is embedded into Initial Teacher Training and Continued Professional Development. This is necessary to ensure that all teachers have the basic knowledge and skills to be able to promote the wellbeing of students and to respond effectively to mental health concerns.

They must also receive appropriate support to deliver a whole-school approach to wellbeing and resilience through the curriculum, school culture and beyond.

Victoria English is an award-winning speaker, lecturer and mental health consultant specialising in mental and emotional health, special educational needs and corporate wellbeing. 

Read more

Free Mental Health Taster for Families this Summer

Teenagers and their parents are set to benefit from free mental health and wellbeing taster courses thanks to a partnership between Shawmind and Newark & Sherwood District Council.

The East Midlands mental health and wellbeing charity and its associate trainer, Tana Macpherson-Smith from Clearminds Education, are offering one-hour taster sessions of their Monkey Wisdom courses to teens and their parents over the next two weeks, as the summer holidays begin.

Awareness of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing had been on the rise even before Covid-19 struck, but the pandemic has pulled the looming crisis into sharp focus, particularly in young people.

Research by MHFA England suggests that half of mental ill health starts by the age of 15 and 75% develops by the age of 18.

To address this and to help reassure pupils and parents ahead of the planned return to school in September, Shawmind has partnered with Newark & Sherwood District Council to deliver two free  live sessions for parents and their children on YouTube.

The first Monkey Wisdom session, for teenagers, will be streamed live on Shawmind’s YouTube channel on Thursday 30th July, 6pm-7pm. Parents will have access to their own dedicated session a week later, on Friday 7th  August, 6pm-7pm.

Anyone who is concerned about their teenager’s emotional and mental health or who would simply benefit from some pointers on how to start conversations about mental health with their children, should join the free session. 

Tana Macpherson-Smith, Founder of Clearminds Education, said: “At a time when we are experiencing health concerns and conditions previously unknown to most of us, the anticipated return to school in September has caused many children and parents to become understandably anxious about the possible impact of the new-look school system under the Covid19 regime.

“This one-hour training will address the key areas of concern for both teenagers and parents; explore the prevalent emotions at this difficult time and provide seven simple steps to help support your child as they prepare for their return to school.” 

Peter Wingrove, Operations Director at Shawmind, said: “We are delighted to be working with Tana and Newark & Sherwood District Council to offer these free sessions to teenagers and parents.

“We are aware that anxiety can have a lasting impact on an individual’s mental health and long-term wellbeing, so by equipping teenagers and their parents with the tools to acknowledge, address and resolve anxiety, we’re hoping that young people will return to school in September feeling much more reassured.

“The Monkey Wisdom courses have been proving popular with children, teenagers and parents across the country, but thanks to our partnership with the council, we’re excited to be able to offer these taster sessions to our community.”

Anyone interested in watching the free sessions should tune into the Shawmind YouTube channel from 6pm on either Thursday 30th July or Friday 7th August to watch the live stream, here: https://bit.ly/2ZTGtrm

For more information about Shawmind’s extensive training courses for children visit the website https://www.shawmind.org/online-training-children-mental-health/

Read more

How Do We Alleviate the Looming Mental Health Crisis?

The mental health and wellbeing of the nation has been pulled into sharp focus following the lockdown and subsequent limitations imposed on ‘normal life’ thanks to Covid-19.

In a range of new reports by the Office of National Statistics, the mental health and wellbeing of people across the UK, particularly of parents and children, has been highlighted as an area of concern.

In the ONS’ latest report on education and childcare one of the most startling findings was that ‘Between 3 April and 10 May 2020, of parents who were homeschooling, one in three women (34%) agreed that it was negatively affecting their well-being compared with one in five men (20%), while 43% of homeschooling parents agreed that it was negatively affecting the well-being of their children’.

In addition, ‘During this period, only half of parents who were homeschooling (49%) strongly or somewhat agreed that they were confident in their abilities to homeschool their children. Parents also reported that homeschooling was negatively affecting their jobs and well-being’.

Peter Wingrove, Operations Director at Shawmind, believes that companies and organisations owe it to their employees to take heed of these stats, particularly with the six-week summer holidays days away.

Peter said: “It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us during lockdown: with the best will in the world no-one could have planned for everything this crisis has, and continues to throw at us. But I believe that employers should be looking at this report and thinking about how they can truly support their staff, particularly those who have juggled childcare and homeschooling, while still delivering at work throughout lockdown.

“When we realised the nation would be going in to lockdown, we quickly set in motion a range of volunteer-led tele-services to continue to support those in our local community who were regular visitors to our Breathe Cafes, Pop-Ups and ManCave groups. We didn’t want anyone to be without the support they needed.

“We also took our mental health and wellbeing training courses, which were due to be launched in April, online so that people could access them from anywhere in the country, while still benefitting from the live and interactive format of the sessions.

The charity is particularly proud of its training courses aimed at children, teenagers and parents – Monkey Wisdom, which is delivered by professional trainer and ex-teacher Tana Macpherson-Smith who also created the series.

In the sessions, parents and their children are encouraged to address key areas of concern and work together to find a way to move forward for the benefit of the whole household.

Meanwhile, businesses that want to boost their staff and invest in their long-term wellbeing can talk to the charity about their mental health programme, or book on to the charity’s workplace mental health courses, which will not only help foster an environment of support and openness, but will also help staff to better process their own thoughts, feelings and emotions, thereby building a more resilient workforce now and in the future.

Peter concludes: “It is widely realized that the long-term affects of Covid-19 will be felt well into the future, at home, work and school. It’s time for businesses and individuals to take serious steps to embed mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, at home and at school.

“Our courses are just step one, but by equipping people with more information about mental ill health and wellbeing and providing some tangible tools to help people cope when things get too much, we believe we can make a change to society for the benefit of all.”

Read more

Small Change Funds Big Change

In these challenging times, extra pennies can have a big impact and therefore Shawmind is proud to be available on Pledjar – a new and innovative mobile app. Through Pledjar you can securely connect your bank account and round-up your transactions and pass on your ‘spare change’ to benefit our charity.

Shawmind aims to provide resources and support to those experiencing poor mental health and their families. As well as our popular text and telephone support service, we are making mental health training available to everyone from children, their parents and teachers to employees, HR staff and business owners. We believe that everyone should have a better understanding of the different mental health disorders, in order to help themselves and others when a crisis looms.

With Pledjar you can follow our recent campaigns and give one-off donations with a tap, without changing how you spend. Please download the app and use code SMF001 when asked during sign up, so you can select Shawmind as your charity of choice.

Signing up is simple, and only takes a few minutes: https://youtu.be/zd7X_UVJIv0

Sign up today

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pledjar.app&hl=en_GB

iOS: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/pledjar/id1504894760

Read more

Bring a Bro to Our Next ManCave Group

Our ManCave group was developed to encourage guys to open up, talk to and support one another.

The next group meets this Wednesday, come along and talk or bring along a friend who needs to.

The guest speaker this month is Fabian Devlin.

Fabian Devlin biography

Communications Consultant & Co-author of ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry?’

Fabian has worked in communications for nearly 20 years, publicising major organisations like Sky, ITN and The National Lottery, heading up the comms team for national children’s charity Chance to Shine and, most recently, setting up his own freelance consultancy, Devlin Communications.

Fabian is passionate about mental health and, following his own experience of anxiety and depression, he has co-curated a men’s mental health book, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry?’. The collection of 60 stories from men from different backgrounds with lived experience of a range of mental illnesses, was launched in May 2020 (bigboysdontcry.co.uk).

Fabian lives with his wife and daughter in South West London and enjoys mindful meditation, playing cricket and walking his King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Star.

When: 15th July, from 5.30pm
Where: Via Zoom

Please register for your free place here: bit.ly/2ZmOLWX

Read more

Three Top Tips to be More Mindful: The Yoga Edition

The top tips I share below stem from yoga and are great ways to be more mindful, reducing both mental and physical stress. I hope you find ways to implement these simple and effective practises into your daily or weekly routine

  1. The 3, 4, 5 breath

A super simple exercise that is perfect to do as soon as you wake up, and before you go to sleep. Practise either sitting in a meditative posture or lying down on your back. Start by breathing in for the count of 3, holding for the count of 4, and exhaling through your mouth for the count of 5. Aim to do with your eyes closed, and your gaze focused on the point between your two eyebrows. Relax your whole face so you’re not scrunching up your eyes and let your body just settle into the breath. After a few rounds you will start to get into the flow of it.

What is the science behind it?

  • Reduces anxiety and anger
  • Relaxes the nervous system
  • Eases a busy mind
  • Helps you get to sleep
  1. Bhramari Pranayama (black buzzing bee breathing exercise)

Avoid practising this if you have high blood pressure, epilepsy, chest pain, or an ear infection. Begin by sitting in a meditative posture, either cross legged or kneeling. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the point between your eyebrows. Breathe in through the nose, and exhale as a hum for as long as you feel comfortable. While humming, really feel the vibration running through your mind and body. Once finished, start again by taking a deep breath in, and exhaling as a hum. Try 11 hums and see how you feel afterwards.

What is the science behind it?

  • Reduces mental tension
  • Improves the acoustic and aerodynamic parameters of your voice
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • The vibrations of the hum stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland
  1. Diaphragmatic breathing

It’s easy to hold your breath during the day without realising. Holding your breath creates tension and leaves your body fighting for more oxygen. Regularly practising deep diaphragmatic breathing, by filling up your whole belly as you breathe in, as if you are blowing up a balloon, will help your body function at its most optimal. This can be done when you’re in a meeting, to when you’re in the car, or even in the shower by deeply breathing in and out through the nose, focusing on the breath going all the way into your belly and back out.

 What is the science behind it?

  • Allows your whole cardiovascular system to operate better
  • Provides more oxygen to your whole body
  • Lowers your heart rate
  • Eases mental and physical tension
  • Lowers cortisol levels

I’m Geetanjali, it means ‘a poem/song offering to God’, but everyone calls me Angie. I’m a yoga and meditation teacher based in London. I was raised with many Ayurvedic rituals and practises, and the basics of yoga and its true essence was taught to me by my parents. My yoga classes focus on bringing people’s awareness back to yoga’s roots, respecting the ancient sacred Vedic practise, and ensuring people know yoga is not about flexibility alone. We chant, we breathe, and we move in alignment with ourselves and with each other. If you would like to join in or practise 1 to 1, you can find me here, or on g.tiwari@hotmail.co.uk

Read more

Men Open Up About Their Mental Health Thanks to Charity

Men’s mental health was high on the agenda during Men’s Health Week (15th – 21st June) for mental health and wellbeing charity, Shawmind.

Shawmind, which is based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, kicked off a week focusing on men’s mental health by hosting its first virtual men only ManCave group, via Zoom, on Monday 15th June.

The charity, which had been hosting bi-weekly ManCave meetings at a local Newark venue before lockdown rules kicked in, was pleased to see men from as far away as London, Grimsby and Manchester join the hour-long interactive meeting.

On Monday, 10 men from across the country joined the group and heard from guest speaker Dave Cottrell from Mindset by Dave.

Dave, a long-standing supporter of Shawmind, is a mindset coach and host of the mental health podcast Master the Mind Master Anything.

After his talk, the “room” was opened up and participants asked questions, listened to one another’s stories and offered advice and support.

Peter Wingrove, Operations Director at Shawmind, said: “Our ManCave meetings have proven popular from the start and before lockdown we were regularly welcoming around 15 men from as far away as Lincoln, Hull and Nottingham.

“The statistics around men’s mental health are truly shocking; one in eight men have a common mental health problem, but men are often more reluctant than their female counterparts to ask for help or disclose their concerns to loved ones.

“Tragically, men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide in the UK. And men aged 45 – 49 have the highest age-specific suicide rate.

“Having a space to talk freely about their feelings, worries and anxieties with other men in a safe environment can help guys to process what they are going through and start to see a way forward. The ManCave was set up specifically to support that first step.”

The ManCave group will now take place in the middle of each month, with the next one already in the diary for Wednesday 15th July. Those who want to attend can get the registration link for the online session from our website or click here to register.  

Peter adds: “There are no expectations that those who join us for ManCave are expected to share their story unless they want to. Similarly, people regularly benefit from listening to others or offering advice to the group, so there is no pressure to speak up if guests don’t want to.

“That said, the group is a great place to share what’s on your mind. I strongly encourage all those who join to get involved and participate. That way everyone benefits.”

Read more

How to Cope When a Loved One Suffers from Bipolar

I have been sitting on my laptop, staring at my screen for the past hour trying to think of a way to introduce this blog, but I’m struggling. How do I introduce something that makes me so vulnerable and shares one of the most difficult events in my life? I don’t think there is an easy way to introduce this topic and that’s why I am sharing my story, to reduce the stigma and the shame that surrounds mental health. If my vulnerability helps one person feel less alone when the world seems to be against them, it’s worth it.

Last year I faced a challenge that changed my life, a close family member got sectioned for 3 months due to a psychotic mental breakdown. After 3 months, in 3 different psychiatric hospitals, she was diagnosed with bipolar.

This close family member was my mother. I always knew something wasn’t right, she often had erratic and unpredictable behaviour but refused to get help. She stopped paying interest in my school work, was unable to get out of bed, and refused to go into shops. Yet, some days she would decorate the whole house and spend money that we simply didn’t have.

My friends would often say how happy my mother appeared to be, but as soon as they had gone, things were a completely different story. Living with a family member with a mental illness feels extremely lonely and scary, how is it fair that everyone else seems to be so normal and happy?

So how do you cope when a loved one suffers from bipolar?

  1. Make yourself your number one priority. It’s not easy to prioritise your own mental health when someone you love is struggling, but you have to. If you aren’t coping yourself, how do you expect to be able to help the person you care about?
  2. The most important thing you have to do is talk and be open with how you feel. Talk to a family member, a friend, a counselor, or even your neighbour’s cat if it will listen to you for longer than 5 minutes. It’s so incredibly important that you don’t bottle up your feelings or ignore them. Suppressing negative emotions will come back and make your life a lot harder in the end.
  3. When they say something horrible, or act out of character, try not to take it to heart. When someone’s brain is constantly fighting against them, it can be unbearable and frightening for them. When my mother was struggling, she often said vulgar, horrible remarks which she simply didn’t remember when she got better. It’s essential to remember, it’s the illness talking, not the person.
  4. Surround yourself with positive people. The world can be horrible at times but it is important to have a glass half full approach to life. Positivity and optimism always win. However, remember it is okay not to be okay. Allow yourself to feel every emotion, it’s okay to feel scared and helpless, just don’t stay there.

Remember every person’s mental health battle is different. As a society let’s be more understanding, open-minded, and realise that mental health isn’t an excuse, it’s real.

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind” – Jennifer Dukes Lee

Carrianne Dukes is a Digital Marketing Executive at eComOne and SEO Traffic Lab. 

After studying Marketing Management at The University of Lincoln, Carrianne found her passion in content writing, social media marketing and events. 

She has a strong love for Alpacas and Orangutans! She enjoys socialising with her partner, sister and friends.

Read more