Children’s mental health

Shawmind announces new charity partner Wellity Global

Mental health charity Shawmind have announced a charity partnership with global workplace wellbeing company Wellity Global.

Shawmind is a charity on a mission to improve mental health awareness. They are committed to educating individuals and organisations so they understand mental health and emotional wellbeing, and how to manage them effectively to lead successful, fulfilled lives.

In 2017 Shawmind raised 103,000 signatures during their initial Headucation campaign for a parliamentary debate which led to compulsory mental health education in schools. This hugely successful campaign firmly established Shawmind as a champion of mental health in the UK, despite being a fledgling charity.

Following on from their 2017 Headucation campaign, Shawmind is now focusing their energy on improving children’s mental health by ensuring teachers are equipped to understand mental health and support their pupils more effectively to deal with it.

Wellity Global have agreed to support Shawmind and their Headucation campaign, becoming a key partner in promoting and delivering Headucation.

Wellity Global CEO Simon Scott-Nelson explains: “75% of diagnosable mental health conditions are present before the age of eighteen. We really believe that to help make a real difference across society, early intervention and support is critical. This has to start with educating teachers in how to recognise the signs of concern and then act.”

Shawmind are mobilizing corporate sponsors and individuals to help bring about a transformation in the mental health of the next generation: working with local educational authorities and partner organisations to bring a whole-school approach to mental health, helping schools to develop a culture shift towards sustainable better mental health and wellbeing – fully funded to the schools.

Wellity Global is a company specialising in improving employee mental health and wellbeing which will be utilised to improve the workplace culture of schools as part of the whole-school approach.

Wellity Global COO Sadie Restorick MSc MABP notes: “Every day we work with organisations to help tackle stigma and create working cultures where people can talk openly about their mental health. The earlier we can start in normalising the conversation around wellbeing, the better. This means targeting the younger generation and training those around them, such as teachers and support staff.”

Shawmind CEO Peter Wingrove expresses his appreciation: “We are immensely grateful to Simon, Sadie and the rest of the Wellity team for their support of our charity and their commitment to promoting the Headucation cause. Making sure that the next generation is not failed in terms of their mental health and wellbeing is at the core of the Headucation project and with Wellity’s help we can encourage other organisations to join in our plan to train all teachers in basic mental health awareness.”

Visit shawmind.org/headucation for more information. For further queries about Headucation, mental health support in schools or organisations, please contact peter.wingrove@shawmind.org or simon.scott-nelson@wellityglobal.com

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How is children’s mental health legally protected in the UK?

1 in 6 school-aged children in the UK suffer from a mental health condition and suicide is the leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds. With such staggering figures, how is children’s mental health legally protected and treated in the UK?

Several pieces of legislation relating to children’s mental health in the UK including:

  • The Human Rights Act
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The Children Act
  • The Mental Health Act
  • The Education Act

How does the current legislation support children’s mental health in the UK?

The current legislation around rights and mental health in the UK sets out that children should not be discriminated against due to a mental health condition nor should they suffer abuse (either mental abuse or physical abuse that can lead to mental health conditions in the future).

Existing legislation also ensures that relevant parties are responsible for all elements of a child’s welfare and that that official procedures are in place to assess and treat children with mental health conditions.

From September 2020, education around mental health was also made compulsory in schools.

Is the existing children’s mental health legislation enough?

Simply put, no. Despite all the laws that are there to protect and support children’s mental health we are seeing unprecedented levels of depression and anxiety in young people. And with something so difficult to police, discrimination and mental health stigma is still very much a concern.

We believe the problem with the current mental health legislation in the UK is that it mainly looks to support those who suffer from severe mental health conditions rather than protecting them from developing in the first place.

And due to high demand, children who require support don’t receive it quickly enough – many young people with life-threatening conditions can wait more than 100 days before receiving any form of treatment via CAMHS.

Everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health. Sometimes it’s worse and sometimes it’s better but it’s always there. The key to preventing severe conditions that require a child to go through long-term clinical treatment is to notice the signs early on, educate children about mental health and encourage them to seek support as soon as they notice a problem (as they are already encouraged to for physical problems).

What more can be done to improve children’s mental health in the UK?

Compulsory mental health education is a big step towards enabling children to seek support themselves – but this is only one part of the solution

Early intervention can not only reduce the impact of mental health on children in the long term, but by reducing the number of young people in need of intense clinical support it can enable professional services like CAMHS to provide fast and efficient support for those who need it.

As part of our #Headucation2025 campaign, we want to equip teachers across the UK with the skills needed to spot and support children with mental health conditions before they reach severe levels.

Spending as much time with children as they do, teachers are already expected to be more than an educator – they are expected to be a friend, guard, and behaviouralist while on school grounds.

So for them to take on additional responsibilities as a mental health first responder and ambassador to reduce stigma, they need training and support that will help them identify when action is needed.

This includes knowing the factors that put children at risk of developing poor mental health, the signs a child is struggling with mental health and resources to use when having conversations with children about mental health.

Despite musings from the government, there is currently no statutory mental health education for teachers which means that school leaders have to balance the cost of training with other needs within the schools.

We’re calling on individuals and owners to help us provide fully-funded mental health training for 151,000 teachers that will enable them to provide support to 2.5 million schoolchildren with mental health every year.

Help us raise £15 million by donating to our fundraiser, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our mental health training courses – all proceeds will go to Headucation 2025.

We need to do more to protect children’s mental health, help us achieve our goal.

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The importance of mental health training for teachers

Mental health training for teachers has never been more critical: 1 in 6 school age children have a mental health problem and over two thirds of young people believe that lockdown will have a negative impact on their mental health long term.

While mental health education in schools became compulsory from September 2020 as a result of our initial Headucation campaign, mental health training for teachers has not.
As part of our Headucation 2025 campaign, Shawmind aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support enabling them to support nearly 2.5 million children across the UK every year.

Why do teachers need mental health training?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds and depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability in young people. With 75% of diagnosable mental health conditions being present before the age of 18, being able to spot the signs and provide appropriate support will help to reduce the rates of suicide and depression as children age. Aside from parents, teachers and education staff are the adults with the most frequent and regular contact with children which places them in a position to observe signs and situations that could signal a mental health problem.

Without proper support, poor mental health contributes to several other problems in school children including poor attendance, disruptive behaviour and difficulties communication all of which can impact long term academic performance and the ability to build relationships with other children. So not only can mental health training for teachers improve the lives of the children they teach, it can also help to improve and maintain the reputation of their school and students.

Not only that, but teachers themselves are facing significant pressures and the resulting burnout has caused many to leave the profession. Providing adequate mental health training will also give teachers the tools to manage their own mental health.

What will mental health training help teachers do?

Our mental health training for teachers will help them to:

  • Understand and define mental health, wellbeing and stigma
  • Understand signs and symptoms of some of the most common mental illnesses, including; anxiety, stress, depression, OCD, substance misuse and suicide
  • Understand how to give support to someone struggling
  • Understand the recovery process

If you’re a teacher or school leader interested in mental health training, please get in touch with us. Your school could be eligible for fully-funded mental health training.

Help us achieve our goal. Donate now or purchase one of our training programmes (all profits from our training programmes go towards our Headucation 2025 campaign).

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What causes mental health problems in schools

1 in 6 school-aged children has a mental health problem, and 75% of diagnosable mental health conditions are present before the age of 18. In 2017 we raised 103,000 signatures during our Headucation campaign for a parliamentary debate which led to compulsory mental health education in schools from the September 2020 school year. Despite this, teachers receive no compulsory mental health training, which has left them feeling overwhelmed and unequipped to support the children under their supervision.

Poor mental health can lead to serious problems in school including low attendance, poor grades and disruptive behaviour, therefore it’s crucial – not only for a child’s wellbeing, but also for their education and social development – that teachers know how to support common mental health challenges.

Our Headucation 2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025 – as part of this campaign we want to educate teaching staff about what can put children at higher risk of developing a mental health condition.

Bullying

Being the victim of bullying can massively affect a person’s mental health, as can being the bully themselves. Those involved in bullying are at a higher risk of developing long term anxiety or depression as a result of the experience. While many educators place an emphasis on preventing bullying in the first place, consideration also needs to be put into looking after the wellbeing of those who have been bullied already.

Abuse

Those who suffer abuse, whether from friends or family, may experience mental distress as well as physical pain. They may require counselling or additional support in school to ensure they have the space to recover from their traumatic experience.

Bereavement

At any age, we are all saddened by the loss of a loved one – but for a child this can be a particularly distressing and overwhelming experience. Children may experience a range of emotions and exhibit abnormal behaviours – if not dealt with correctly, these can lead to long term mental health conditions and behavioural problems. Ensure your school has the proper training in place in to handle bereavement or reach out to a children’s bereavement organisation.

Substance abuse

Many teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the difficulties that come with transitioning to adulthood. While substance abuse in itself is a serious problem, it can also severely impact a young person’s mental health by inhibiting key developmental processes and distorting their view on reality. Some teens even turn to substances as a way to cope with their existing mental health struggles so it’s not only a risk factor, but a sign of poor mental health.

Difficult home situations

Difficult home situations like divorce or arguments between family members can be incredibly stressful and upsetting for children. Schools may need to provide extra support to children in these situations who are at risk of suffering from long term stress, anxiety or depression.

Moving house or school

Large transitions like moving house or school may be difficult for some children to handle. Many may display changes in their behaviour or academic performance in response to these transitions – often these changes are actually caused by mental health challenges, e.g. stress or anxiety, triggered by the move. If a new child is joining your school or an existing pupil is moving house, consider providing additional support to help them manage their mental wellbeing.

Pre-existing conditions

Conditions such as ADHD or autism will likely already be receiving extra attention in schools to support children with their academic development. However, these children are also at a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than other children. It’s important that attention is paid to supporting their mental health and developing practical skills that can help them with challenges later in life.

Shawmind is dedicating itself to training 150,000 teachers by 2025 in the basics of mental health support at no cost to the school. That means we aim to equip mental health first responders who will reach 2.5-million school children.

If you’re a teacher or school leader interested in mental health training, please get in touch with us. Your school could be eligible for fully-funded mental health training.

Help us achieve our goal. Donate now or purchase one of our training programmes (all profits from our training programmes go towards our Headucation 2025 campaign).

Donate

Training

Get in touch

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Top 10 Children’s Mental Health Resources

Children’s mental health has never been more critical. We’ve just been through an extraordinary worldwide event, children have been thrown in and out of their routines and kept away from their friends.

Even before all of this, children’s mental health was a serious matter with 1 in 6 school-aged children experiencing a mental health problem. So let’s make sure we’re here to support them by reducing mental health stigma, encouraging kids to talk about mental health and providing early intervention for mental health conditions.

As part of our #Headucation2025 campaign, Shawmind is committed to train 150,000 teachers in the UK in the basics of mental health support to enable them to act as mental health first responders in schools and classrooms.

Alongside this larger campaign, we want to share as much advice and knowledge as we can to support children’s mental health. Here are our top 10 favourite mental health resources that you can use at home or at school to educate and support children.

1. Children’s Mental Health Books From Trigger Publishing

Trigger Publishing have created a selection of fun, illustrated children’s books about mental health that can be used both by children on their own and by adults as a way to start a conversation about mental health.

2. Sock It To Stigma Mental Health Resources

Every February at Shawmind, we celebrate #SockItToStigma. A month where we focus on reducing the stigma around mental health in schools and workplaces. We have developed a pack of classroom resources (including wordsearches and colouring sheets) that engage children in the conversation about mental health. Download your free mental health resources.

3.“We All Have Mental Health” Video

This video, created by the Anna Freud Centre, is a great way to explain mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it. “We All Have Mental Health” is a 5 minute animated video that tells the story of school children struggling with mental health – it is so effective it is often used in adult mental health training too.

4. MeeToo Peer Support App

MeeToo is an anonymous free service for young people aged 11+ to discuss anything that’s troubling them, including mental health. The app is a safe space where users can get peer support from those of a similar age and experience. All posts and replies are checked before going live so there is no harassment, bullying or grooming. The MeeToo app also has an internal directory linking to mental health helplines and resources.

5. Childline “For Me” App

A great option for those who are too young to join MeeToo, the Childline “For Me” app allows children to create their own mood journal, start confidential chats directly with a counsellor and access lots of games and support resources.

6. Fink Cards

Fink Cards are a set of question cards designed to help children answer questions about mental health that will help them learn about common mental health conditions, how to maintain good mental health and how to seek mental health support. These cards were developed by Place2Be, a leading children’s mental health charity.

7.Anna Freud #SelfcareSummer Packs

The Anna Freud Centre have developed #SelfcareSummer packs for primary and secondary school children. These packs are free to download and contain a series of activities to help young people understand, evaluate and maintain their own mental health.

8.Stress Relieving Activities from Calm Zone

Calm Zone, created by Childline, contains a wide range of activities to help children let go of stress. These include breathing exercises, mental health tools, and games they can play.

9.YoungMinds Mental Health Guides

YoungMinds, a national young people’s mental health charity, have created a series of mental health guides. These are great resources for teenagers who want education or support around a wide range of mental health challenges including how to talk to friends about mental health, gender and mental health, and drugs.

10.The Mix Mental Health Support

The Mix is a service that provides under 25’s with support and advice across a number of different areas. They have a great selection of mental health support resources including articles, a helpline and a chat service.

Mental health is as important to a child’s safety and wellbeing as their physical health. It can impact on all aspects of their life, including their educational attainment, relationships and physical wellbeing. So let’s look after it.

Support our mission to train teachers in the basics of mental health so that they can act as mental health first responders for schoolchildren. Donate now or purchase one of our training packages (all proceeds go to Headucation 2025).

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Children and teachers must be given the opportunity to tell their stories…

After a second period of Covid lockdown, seeing children being educated at home and online for nearing 3 months, schools began to unlock on Monday 8th March.  Of course, schools have remained open to support the learning of vulnerable children and children of key workers throughout both lockdowns, but it is the return of all children to school that has caused concern amongst the teaching profession and reminders of the previous return to school potentially being the catalyst for a spiralling of Covid cases nationally.

This unlocking of schools has been paralleled with repeated rhetoric from the DfE and the Secretary of State about just how vital it is that children ‘catch up’ on missed learning with the notion that children are falling behind being a key driver for the wider opening of schools and a simultaneous refusal to budge on the idea that teachers should be vaccinated ahead of the unlocking of schools. Such activity and discourse leading to media headlines social media discourse around the safety of children returning en masse to their school settings and no doubt increased anxiety and concern for children, parents and teachers alike for a variety of reasons.

The rush for children to ‘catch up’ has led to schools receiving money from the DfE (note this is not significant and is less than the loss many schools have suffered in the movement of the funding window for Pupil Premium) to pay for additional tutoring for children to make sure they catch up as soon as possible has been mirrored by schools spending time to devise and share a new ‘catch-up curriculum’, assessing newly formed gaps and re-arranging their curricular to plug these gaps.  A new requirement exists to share such approaches on the school website!

Something that has been missing from these messages is who are the children trying to catch up with?  Surely, if everyone is behind then there is no one in front?  This is something that the DfE seems to misunderstand.

The push for a catch up totally misses the point and shows a distinct lack of understanding about how children develop and learn.  It is an indisputable fact that children have been away from school for a long time over the past year, and that this will result in them being unable to be taught the content of the curriculum at the pace at which teachers have to march through it.  But to focus on academic catch up is not an immediate priority, we would argue, and we are sure that many school teachers and leaders would agree, that re-socialisation and re-integration into the school community is the most important focus.

Children have been away from friends and teachers for a significant amount of time, with some not being able to engage face to face with anyone of their age range at all.  They need to get used to doing this once again.  Teachers may find that the children returning to school are not the same children as those who left for their Christmas holidays.  Each child has had a unique experience of lockdown; some more positive than others.  Children will be returning to school with differing needs, be physically different having potentially lacked exercise and movement over the time at home, with some often not getting out of bed or off the sofa for hours on end and may struggle to sit at a desk for long periods of time initially.  Some children will have suffered illness, trauma and bereavement during their time in lockdown in a variety of situations and circumstances with such experiences increasing levels of anxiety and negative mental health.

Wellbeing and mental health are the first priorities upon the children’s return, academic catch up is secondary to this.  Making time and creating space for children to tell their stories is vital. There are many stories and these should be allowed, and encouraged to be told as part of children’s coming to terms with their experiences.

Of course, it is not only the children who will return to school with stories and experiences. The teachers themselves will have had their own lockdown experiences to deal with: challenging working spaces, home schooling, illness, bereavement…. all having an impact on teacher mental health and wellbeing. It is the role of school leaders to make spaces and time available to hear the stories of their staff and support them as they transition back to whole class teaching in the continuing pandemic situation, still many being unvaccinated.

But in the telling of these stories, teachers and school leaders must refrain from seeing just the negative impacts of the lockdown on their children and explore and celebrate the positives, of which there are quite a few.  Many children have had the opportunity of enjoying time with their family and re-connecting with parents and siblings.  There are so many photos and posts around children utilising the allowance to exercise by taking walks and bike rides and spending time in nature, something that they often do not make, or have the time for when in school, especially with the dark winter mornings and evenings.  We have seen multiple posts from children and schools around the amazing work that children have been undertaking at home and in their communities; creative projects, arts and cookery, with children learning and developing new skills that will help them as they move forward into their lives.

It is now over to schools to acknowledge the positives that the children bring as well as ensuring that the children’s wellbeing and mental health is supported through ensuring that mental health is threaded through the curriculum and that there are spaces and opportunities to monitor, talk about and support children’s mental health.

It is over to school leaders to ensure that the pressures of academic catch up and reporting does not significantly add to the stresses and workload of a profession already at breaking point.  School leaders must take this opportunity to pause and reflect upon the practices introduced and undertaken during this pandemic and the lockdown periods assessing the elements that were most challenging and need to return to ‘normal’ but also embracing and continuing with the elements and practices that had to be introduced but have seen improvement and benefits to the working lives of teachers and the experiences of the school community.  PPA at home, a significant reduction in the number of meetings, a change in the approach and regularity of lesson observation and monitoring and the possibility of more flexible working.

The teaching profession must seize this moment.  This moment to reflect on the positive changes that they wish to make, the practices that they want to keep and the practice and processes that can improve teacher workload, wellbeing and mental health.

Teachers and leaders must also seize this moment where children have through not being able to attend school, seen the true value of that place called school; not simply as a place to earn ‘stuff’ but the holistic value that school brings to their lives.

Alongside this, we must seize this moment when parents have had first-hand experience of just how challenging teaching children is and parents who have seen how hard teachers work, the knowledge and skills they possess in order to educate our children.

But most of all we must seize this moment to re-align the priorities of our schools to take an honest look at the impact that the dominant education culture and system has had upon the mental health and wellbeing of its children and its teachers.  We have the moment now. We must act on this positively and bravely to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

Catherine Carden is Faculty Director of Learning & Teaching, Canterbury Christchurch University. She writes in her personal capacity.

 

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