Headucation Schools

10 Ways to Support a Young Carer in Your School This Carers Week

Shawmind is on a mission to raise the levels of mental health awareness and understanding in schools. This Carers Week, we want to raise awareness and highlight the challenges young carers may experience, and how schools can offer effective support. 

Reports estimate that there are around 800,000 young carers in the UK. We want to help schools provide effective support for the mental health, wellbeing and education of children and especially young carers across the UK. 

If you want to support the mental health of young carers in your school, find out more about Headucation. 

Identifying young carers in the school  

Before implementing practices to support young carers in your school, it’s important to identify who they are. Your school should have a system in place to identify who the young carers are so they can be offered the proper support they need.  

Some signs someone may have caring responsibilities to look out for include:  

  • Regular lateness 
  • Change in hygiene/appearance  
  • Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive or angry, withdrawn or quieter 
  • Tiredness 
  • Low attention span  
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Low attendance  
  • Not completing homework 
  • Feelings of anxiety 
  • Parent/guardian uses disabled parking space  
  • Lack of parent/guardian attendance to parents evening/other school events  
  • On pupil premium/free school meals  
  • Low mood/mental ill-health  

If teachers or staff notice the above signs, it is an indication that the child needs to have a meeting with the young person to get to the bottom of the issue.  

Building awareness and understanding 

Supporting young carers starts by building awareness and understanding of their circumstances. It is important to highlight what a young carer is, what their responsibilities are and how this may have an impact on their education and mental health.  

This way, staff and teachers are fully equipped with the knowledge of what a young carer is so they can provide the necessary support. Students should also be aware of what a young carer is so they can provide support to their peers. 

Providing emotional support 

Being a young carer can be an emotionally difficult and isolating experience. Many young people across the country are juggling being a carer with their social lives and educational responsibilities. This can have a significant impact on their mental health, and it is important to consider their wellbeing from a holistic lens.  

Schools should implement support and counselling services like Headucation, or groups for the young carers in their school. They should have at least one trusted, dedicated staff member who they can confide in and express themselves to.  

It is also worth setting up a club for the young carers in the school to meet up regularly, so they can find solace in individuals who are experiencing the same struggles as them and avoid being lonely. This is important for them, as many young carers often neglect their social lives, which can impact their mental health. Also, they can support each other emotionally and develop meaningful friendships, develop resilience and learn new skills.  

Academic support and flexible learning 

Young carers may often neglect their education due to their carer responsibilities. If teachers notice a decline or plateau in academic performance, it is important to provide academic support to help them through their challenges. This could include:  

  • Flexible deadlines and homework extensions 
  • Individualised learning plans 
  • Regular communication and check-ins 
  • Additional academic support and resources 
  • Homework clubs and study groups 
  • Academic mentoring 
  • Time management skills 
  • In-class support and accommodations 
  • Liaising with support services 
  • Celebrating achievements 

This can significantly help a young carer with their academic responsibilities. It is also important to have regular check-ins to keep up-to-date with their lives and tailor the support accordingly.  

Collaboration with carer support organisations 

It is important to recognise when your institution needs professional advice and guidance when it comes to supporting your carers. There are many organisations and charities that can support you and provide advice so you can take the right steps when providing a young carer with support.  

You could speak to your local council to find any local carer support organisations, and remain in consistent contact so they can keep up to date with your school, and you can keep your school’s wellbeing policy up to date.  

Providing respite and relaxation opportunities 

It is important to highlight the challenges young carers face and recognise their struggles. Where most young people finish school and go home to a place of relaxation, young carers may have a long list of duties that are waiting for them when they come home. Being constantly mentally and physically active can impact their mental wellbeing, leading to fatigue and exhaustion, compounded by the demands made of them emotionally by the adults in their care.  

It is important for schools to support the mental health and wellbeing of young carers, and provide the opportunity for respite and relaxation if they feel they are physically or mentally exhausted. Teachers should be trained to recognise signs of exhaustion and offer relaxation opportunities and mental health days.  

Young carers who need a break could be taken out of non-compulsory classes or provided with time to relax with a book in the library or take a peaceful walk on the playground with the supervision of a staff member. This can help them unwind and recuperate in time for their more important lessons.  

Young carers should also be taught how to practise self-care, prioritise their wellbeing and stress management techniques such as mindfulness practices, so that they can use it when they are at home. This ensures that they are looking after themselves and building resilience.  

Engaging with parents and guardians 

Schools should be in regular contact with the parents or guardians of young carers, and understand any home circumstances that could impact them, or raise a safeguarding concern if warranted. Regular contact allows for schools to tailor the support and care they offer each young carer to ensure they are making their lives as easy as possible.  

Schools should also regularly update parents or guardians on the support they are providing, and offer any resources or information to parents that can support the young carer.  

Addressing attendance and punctuality issues 

Young carers can often have a hard time being punctual or attending school. This can be due to their carer responsibilities overtaking their time, or their exhaustion from an irregular sleep schedule due to nights of caring. 

Schools should implement strategies to address attendance and punctuality challenges some young carers may have. They should also do welfare checks on any absences to ensure the child is okay, and offer any support, or raise a safeguarding concern if appropriate. If a child is absent frequently, entice them to come to school by offering relaxed learning techniques, as they may not realise they need a break from being at home.  

Evaluation and continuous improvement 

Schools should regularly reflect on the effectiveness of their support strategies and implement any necessary changes or alterations if aspects of the strategies aren’t working as effectively as they should. 

Collecting feedback from young carers within the school will allow schools to adapt accordingly and implement necessary changes, ultimately supporting the wellbeing and educational needs of the young carers.  

Celebrating and recognising young carers 

This carers week, celebrate and recognise the achievements, resilience and challenges young carers face. It is important to recognise their contributions and selflessness as they care for their families and communities.  

Recognition of the contributions they make can uplift their spirits, boost their self-esteem and make them feel valued by their community.  


Shawmind has a mission to improve children and teen’s mental health across the nation. We provide early intervention to prevent a further mental health crisis in the next generation. If you want to support Headucation, please donate or choose to do one of our mental health courses. Alternatively, you can book Headucation for your school.  

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Why mental health education in schools is so important

According to the Prince’s Trust’s Youth Index, one-quarter of young people are unable to cope with life. Report after report reveals the mental health toll exacerbated by lockdown conditions. Research has found that the first national lockdown harmed children’s mental health. If there was a mental health crisis among young people prior to the pandemic, it can only get worse now. As a result, it is critical that children receive the best possible support.  

Schools play an important role in providing assistance to children and adolescents with their mental health. We believe teachers play a crucial role in supporting children and young people’s mental health, which is why we run our Headucation programme. Headucation aims to improve the mental health of the next generation by addressing mental health in schools through a whole-school approach.   

Find out more about our headucation programme here. 


Why should children learn about mental health? 

1. The importance of early intervention 

Small changes in thinking and behaviour are frequently noticed by family, friends, teachers, and individuals themselves before a mental illness manifests itself fully. Learning about early warning signs and acting on them can be beneficial. 

Teaching and talking to children about mental health in an age appropriate manner, can lessen the severity of the illness and may even prevent or postpone the development of a major mental illness. Apathy, feelings of disconnection, nervousness, unusual behaviour, withdrawal, mood changes, and a drop in performance are some of the symptoms. 


2. Mental Health Is Equally Important as Physical Health 

We typically associate the term “health” with physical health. Physical health is extremely important in our children’s lives, and physical education has been a vital part of the curriculum for a long time. We must, however, consider our children’s mental health on the same level. We want them to live a happy and healthy life, so we must teach them to understand how mental and physical health interact. 

To live a happy life while coping with everyday stresses, we need to know how to handle our mental health. We can learn this while we are in school. Knowing the role mental health plays in their lives allows children to become happy adults. Happy, functional adults are better equipped to handle life. 


3. Students’ Mental Health Impacts Learning and Achievement 

Few children are aware that poor mental health can have an impact on learning and achievement. Children and adolescents who have mental health issues may struggle to learn. They may also struggle to complete tasks and concentrate. These children are also more likely to have poor academic performance and to miss school. 

Children and teens who have mental health issues are less likely to graduate. They also have a harder time attending and completing postsecondary education. 


4. Societal Pressures from Social Media 

When children begin using social media, they must understand mental wellbeing. Social media is extremely important in today’s world, particularly in the lives of young people. Children and teenagers can learn unhealthy ways to talk, behave, socialise, and interact on social media. 

Children’s mental health may suffer as they become more reliant on social media. Children who use social media extensively are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. If children learn about mental health in school, they will be able to make better social media decisions, lowering their chances of developing these conditions. 


Our children’s mental health is in crisis, and we need your help: 

We want to raise £20,000 before the end of 2022 to ensure we can support AT LEAST 3000 school children with their mental health and emotional well-being throughout 2023. 

Your donations will help us achieve this goal and change young people’s lives forever. >> 

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What are mental health days and when should you take one?

Taking time off work to care for your physical health is a standard practise but doing the same for your mental health can feel like more of a grey area.

Even though many employers have rules on personal or mental health days, it can feel challenging to request time off when all you need is a mental break. You may end up forcing yourself to go even though you’re uncomfortable or feel bad about using one of your few leave days. However, when you’re overly worried, stressed or anxious, both you and your job suffer, sometimes resulting in problems that might harm both your performance and your co-workers. Maintaining your general health and well-being, both within and outside of the office, requires knowing when to take a mental health day for yourself.

When to take a mental health day

It might be all too simple to convince yourself that experiencing mental health issues doesn’t warrant time off from work. Why stay off work if you are physically capable of doing so and being paid?

But keep in mind that your entire wellbeing depends just as much on your mental health as it does on your physical health. Your mind needs time to relax and heal, just like any illness or physical suffering does.

Consider taking the day off if you wake up feeling particularly agitated, depressed, or nervous to the point that it interferes with your ability to operate. Of course, sometimes you just feel unexplainably “off.” It’s OK to take the day to yourself then, too. Use your personal judgement and listen to your mind and body. Everyone needs a mental health day from time to time.

How to tell your manager you want a mental health day

For many people, their job openly accepts mental health days and, in this case, you can be open and honest with your manager. Unfortunately, the debate over mental health days is still prevalent in many companies. Meaning, what you say to your boss is important. Here are some points to consider when talking to your manager about taking a mental health day.

1. Acknowledge that you deserve the day. This will make it easier to communicate your needs to your supervisor and make your intentions clear. There is power in naming your stressors, and you’ll have a concrete idea of what you need to address during your time off.

2. Consider your workplace leave policies. Depending on your workplace, asking for a mental health day can be as simple as requesting a sick day. Familiarise yourself with your rights prior to requesting a mental health day.

3. Share only what you’re comfortable with. If your workplace isn’t as receptive to employees taking time off for mental health, don’t feel the need to over-explain yourself. Simply saying you have to deal with a personal matter should do the trick. However, if you’re comfortable telling your supervisor or HR (Human Resources) department why you’re taking the day off, you can! It helps to plan what you would like to say to your supervisor beforehand, so you are clear about what you are asking. After your request is approved, you can start to think about what you want to accomplish or take care of on your day off. Here’s an example of how to tell your employer you need a mental health day.

Hi [Employer],
I need to take today off for my mental health. Hopefully, then I can be back at 100% for tomorrow
Many Thanks,
[Your Name]


4. Remember that your day is for you. Once your request is approved, you can focus on what you need to decompress and take care of yourself. If you need to sit on the couch all day, do it! Getting outside is also a great option if the weather allows but remember that the day is specifically for you to recoup from the stressors of work.

How to spend your mental health day

Just like you’d treat any sick day, do things that make you feel better. Spend your mental health day doing things you know are beneficial to your mental and physical health. If spending the day relaxing on the sofa or going for a walk in the park will help you, do them! But often spending the day doing tasks like laundry, dishes and errands can help clear your mind and reduce the mental load. There is no right or wrong way to spend your mental health day, do what you need to do to feel better.

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4 ways to implement mindfulness in the classroom

Incorporate mindfulness into classroom activities by including breathing, sensory experience, guided imagery, and movement exercises into the day-to-day curriculum.

Teaching mindfulness in the classroom is more important than ever. 66% of school-age children are currently experiencing stress and worry about school, exams and homework and teachers and parents are equally concerned and anxious for them. Our lives are hectic, and we frequently find ourselves dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness is important for children because it teaches them to live in the present moment, to enjoy and experience what is in front of them rather than dwelling on the past or worrying for the future.

Educators understand that children learn best when they are at ease, safe, and calm. Imagine if, in addition to the gift of lifelong learning and the tools to become compassionate and productive adults, we could also offer our children the gift of mindfulness – the ability to use their breath and mind to live a happy and healthy life. Teachers will benefit from mindfulness as well, because we all know that a happy teacher has a happy classroom.

Here are 4 ways to implement mindfulness in your classroom:

1. Mindfulness Through Breath

We commonly take short breaths into our chests when we are upset or anxious. You may utilise your breath to soothe both your body and mind by inhaling deeply into your abdomen. Place your right hand on your abdomen and your left hand on your chest to practise mindful breathing. Feel the smooth rise and fall of your breath. Count to three as you inhale, then three more times as you exhale. If it’s more comfortable for you, close your eyes. Try mindful breathing on your own first, then with your students. They can pretend to fill a balloon in their stomachs, or you can use a Hoberman Sphere to show the breath visually.

You may use this easy breathing technique throughout the school day to aid with transitions, before tests, or in stressful circumstances.

2. Mindfulness Through Sensory Experiences

Sensory experiences also assist youngsters in focusing and relaxing. In the classroom, try listening to soothing music or other peaceful noises. You might also take the kids outside to listen to the sounds of nature. They may make mind jars or play I Spy. This exercise entails placing objects with strong, recognisable odours (such as cinnamon, flowers, cheese, or popcorn) in jars and having the children estimate the items based on their sense of smell. Close their eyes, give each child a cotton ball or sponge, and have them guess what they’re holding to focus their sense of touch. Sensory tables with containers of water, sand, ice, or themed items are fantastic. Use Play-doh, clay, or Slime to encourage developmentally beneficial imaginative play.

3. Mindfulness Through Guided Imagery

Guided imagery fosters the development of children’s imaginations. It also aids in the integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge. When you begin a new topic in your lecture, have your students close their eyes (if that is comfortable) and walk them on a fictitious journey. If you’re studying the ocean, for example, have students envision getting into underwater vehicles and travelling around the ocean waters in search of fish, creatures, and plants. Finish the guided relaxation with a few deep breaths, and then they can sketch their thoughts and discuss them as a class. Depending on your curriculum subjects, you may take them on pretend adventures into outer space, to the beach, forest, or a deserted island, on a safari, or up a volcano. Take your children on journeys through relaxation stories to help them calm down and re-energise.

4. Mindfulness Through Movement

Humans are born to move. Our distant ancestors spent their days running from predators or hunting for food. Movement is a natural part of human life that has become a luxury in modern times. Introducing movement into your classroom allows your students to tap into their natural way of learning. Yoga is a simple strategy for adding movement to your school day. Children can mimic their environment to develop their self-expression and self-confidence. They can practice yoga in their chairs, in the gym, or outside. Again, using poses that correspond with your class topic makes the motion relevant and meaningful for your students.

Are you interested in learning more about mindfulness?

Our 6-week Mindfulness course teaches the learner what mindfulness is, the importance of mindfulness in relationships, the neuroscience of self-compassion, and an understanding of how to apply mindfulness in your life.

Our CPD Accredited Understanding Stress course teaches the learner what stress is, how it can be managed and prevented, and how you can support someone who is struggling with stress.

For more information on how stress, including stress management through mindfulness, download our stress guide.

At Shawmind, we want to make it easier for you to handle moments of poor mental health by reducing stigma and increasing awareness and support options. That’s why all funds raised through our online courses support Headucation – our mission to train teachers in the basics of mental health support.

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Simple ways to use the “5 ways to wellbeing” for young people

It’s the Mental Health Foundation’s Wellbeing Week from 27th June 2022! It’s a fantastic initiative to provide young people with the tools and knowledge to help manage their mental health. 

As a champion of children and young people’s mental health, Shawmind wants to use this week to help young people, as well as those who support young people (like teachers, parents, and volunteers), find simple ways to implement good habits and practices for looking after mental health and preventing early symptoms from deteriorating.  

What are the “5 ways to wellbeing”? 

Wellbeing Week revolves around the 5 ways to wellbeing – a set of behaviours identified by the NEF that “enhance individual well-being and may have the potential to reduce the total number of people who develop mental health disorders in the longer term.” 

These are: 

  1. Connect 
  2. Be active 
  3. Take notice 
  4. Keep learning 
  5. Give 

In this article, we’ve highlighted some simple ways young people can implement these behaviours in their daily life – as well as ways that you can support young people in your care to improve their wellbeing.  

1. Connect

Building and maintaining connections with the people around you – like friends, family, and members of your community – can help you feel supported and enriched in your daily life.  

How can young people ‘connect’ for mental health? 

  • Join support and talking groups. Want to talk to someone? Come along to our Breathe Café for real conversations about anything that’s bothering you.  
  • Join sports teams or community groups e.g. Scouts, Girl Guides 
  • Reach out to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to at school – you might find you have more in common than you think! 

How can you help young people ‘connect’ for their mental health?

  • Encourage group activities in the classroom that mix up the usual cliques 
  • Organise after-school activities with other children and young people 
  • Car share during the school run or walk to school in groups 

2. Be Active

Physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good. Regular activity can boost your mood, release stress, and improve your self-confidence.  

How can young people ‘be active’ for mental health?

  • Try to walk a little every day – e.g. walk to school or go for a walk before dinner 
  • Join a team sport or sporting club 
  • Stretch for 5-10 mins after waking up 

How can you help young people ‘be active’ for mental health? 

  • Besides PE, get students active during lessons by moving around the classroom or going outside 
  • Organise walks with groups of people like friends and family  
  • Get active at the weekends – go to an adventure park, go cycling, or spend time playing in the garden 

3. Take Notice

Taking notice of the things around you – big and small – can help you savour the moment, reflect on your experiences and appreciate what matters most to you. Mindfulness has been linked to lower stress levels and greater daily satisfaction. 

How can young people ‘take notice’ for mental health? 

  • Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on something good that happened that you are grateful for  
  • Make a note of anything unusual or interesting you see during the day 
  • Set yourself a challenge at the start of the day to spot as many things as you can that match a specific criteria, e.g. spot as many purple things as possible 
  • When you get stressed or irritable, take slow breaths and take notice of the things you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste 

How can you help young people ‘take notice’ for mental health? 

  • Organise a scavenger hunt or spotting game to help young people pay attention and take a closer look at the world around them 
  • Point out things when you spot them so that young people start noticing them too 
  • Start conversations with young people about how their day went so they get an opportunity to reflect 
  • Set an example by reflecting on your own positive experiences in front of them 

4. Keep Learning

Learning and achieving new things improves confidence, feelings of purpose, and daily enjoyment. Besides regular lessons, young people must have something to learn that they find fun and personal.  

How can young people ‘keep learning’ for mental health? 

  • Learn how to make your favourite meal  
  • Learn all the words to a new song you like 
  • Learn how to do a new hairstyle 

How can you help young people ‘keep learning’ for mental health? 

  • Ask questions about what young people want to do when they’re older and help them find learning activities that will help them learn skills for the future 
  • Provide a mix of activities in the classroom to support learning e.g. physical activities, reading and writing, musical activities, arts and crafts 
  • Find and share information about national challenges that might interest them e.g. National Novel Writing Month 
  • Encourage them to try new hobbies based on their interests e.g. sport, music, reading, crafts, etc 

5. Give to Others

Giving your time and energy to someone other than you can feel incredibly rewarding and make you feel good – as well as being a great way to connect with others! 

How can young people ‘give to others’ for mental health? 

  • Ask a friend or family member how their day was.  
  • Do something nice for a loved one like completing a chore or treating them to a  
  • Go the extra mile for someone’s gift by getting them something unexpected or making it yourself 
  • Volunteer for a charity. Want to volunteer for Shawmind? We have lots of ways you can get involved! Visit our volunteering page for more information.  
  • Fundraise for a cause you believe in. Want to help us improve mental health support in schools? Find out how to fundraise for us! 

How can you help young people ‘give to others’ for mental health? 

  • Organise activities to support the local community 
  • Set an example for young people by bringing them along when you help others 

Teachers and schools play a vital role in the support of mental health conditions in young people, but they need more help to do it effectively. Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support which will allow them to comfortably provide young people with the support they need. 

Help us to provide as many fully-funded training sessions to schools as possible. Help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses. 

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How to prevent loneliness in schools

Loneliness is often associated with older age groups but data has shown that young people are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups. So, how can we prevent loneliness in schools, and why is this so important to the mental health of young people?

Alongside the effects that loneliness can have on childrens’ physical health, research shows that loneliness can also be a risk factor for depression and anxiety. Social interactions significantly support positive mental health and give us opportunities to give and receive help when we need it.

What are the signs of loneliness in pupils?

Anyone who interacts with children must be able to recognise when a child is struggling with their mental health and, more significantly, know how to take proper action.

Even if a pupil doesn’t tell you they’re lonely, they may show you signs, for example:

  • They always spend break times at school alone.
  • They aren’t invited to spend time with friends after school.
  • They say they feel sad, or cry often.
  • They spend a lot of time by themselves (although, some children are content to spend a lot of time alone, while others may be part of a large social circle but still feel lonely).

So, what can be done to help our children deal with loneliness? For many, school, and especially teachers, may be a safe haven. They may make kids feel safe and included by offering chances and resources for them to learn and play in a safe setting, as well as practical measures that can be implemented.

At Shawmind, we recommend that anyone who works with children should be well equipped to be that “safe haven”. Our Youth Mental Health Awareness course is an interactive learning session covering various aspects of children and young people’s mental health – from how to identify potential issues, to how you can help and support a young person who may be struggling. Our Headucation campaign works alongside schools to develop a culture shift towards sustainable better mental health and wellbeing – free of charge to the schools.

How to improve awareness and reduce loneliness in schools

A child’s mental health is just as vital as their physical health when it comes to their safety and well-being. It influences every part of their lives, including their academic achievement, relationships, and physical health. It can be difficult for adults to recognise when a child is experiencing loneliness, and it can be tough for young people to speak out about the loneliness difficulties they are dealing with.

Allow school to be a place of real, deep belonging for pupils. Create a sense of community by getting students involved in activities that give them an opportunity to socialise with each other. These activities could include everything from starting yearbook and chess clubs to drama groups and sports teams. Activities that involve community service are also good opportunities for the students to socialise with each other and externally.

Another great idea is normalising the concept of youngsters spending time alone by providing outdoor seating spaces for reading or providing pleasant settings for kids to work in, such as a garden, to celebrate doing individual activities. We should also consider how powerful and potentially harmful talks and stories depicting a “perfect life full of friends” may be, especially for lonely pupils.

Developing young peoples’ communication and emotional literacy skills is important to reduce the impact loneliness will have on mental health. Starting a conversation about mental health and providing books on a variety of mental health topics can be great ways to start the conversation about loneliness and allow pupils to express their feelings.

Headucation emphasises the importance of early intervention. Children and teenagers spend much of their adolescent lives in education settings surrounded by teachers. Yet, with no mandatory or government-funded mental health training, many signs of mental health go unnoticed or get mishandled by the school staff.

By training teachers in the basics of mental health, they will be better equipped to spot the signs of mental health struggles in young people, support mental health problems in the classroom and signpost young people to alternative mental health resources besides the GP.

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Minimising Stress and Anxiety in the Classroom

A common mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression affects 1 in 6 young individuals. Although 75% of diagnosable mental health issues appear before the age of eighteen, it takes an average of ten years to acquire adequate treatment.

Since depression and anxiety are among the top causes of mental illness and disability among adolescents, it is critical for those who work with children to be conscious of minimising stress and anxiety in the classroom and to be able to spot the signs of a child in distress.

What are the signs of stress and anxiety in the classroom?

With children spending seven hours a day at school, teachers need to know the signs of stress and anxiety. Here are some signs that teachers should be aware of:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in eating habits
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Frequent toilet visits
  • Constant worrying and negative thoughts
  • Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
  • Emotional outbursts (e.g., crying or tantrums)
  • Being clingy
  • Disruptive behaviour

Symptoms of mental health conditions can often overlap (i.e. they are often ‘comorbid’). Also, a single instance may not always be cause for concern however if you notice multiple instances or a prolonged period of emotional and physical symptoms, longer than two weeks, for example, you should seek professional help.

Some schools have a designated mental health lead, a Mental Health First Aider, or Youth Mental Health First Aider, however, having all staff equipped with the ability to recognise mental health symptoms and the ability to support your Mental Health First Aider / designated mental health lead will lay the foundations for you to provide the necessary support to all students and create a positive classroom environment.

You’ll be better equipped to help someone struggling with mental health and facilitate their recovery if you understand the symptoms. All these topics and more are covered in our Basics of Mental Health Support training course, which provides an introduction to the mental health process. Or, how about placing teachers on our CPD-accredited Youth Mental Health Awareness course.

What can be done to reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom?

The best thing you can do to help reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom is to understand what factors affect mental health and work on limiting these.

There are occasions when factors in a child’s school environment can have an impact on their mental health, for example, public speaking, unfamiliar transitions and bullying. Identifying these factors can help you better understand how to help someone who is going through a difficult time. Cyberbullying, for example, can have a negative impact on young people’s mental health.

Understanding what it is, how it occurs, and how it affects people’s mental health can enable you to provide support to individuals who are affected while also reducing their exposure to it in the school setting.

We offer a variety of self-learning courses available to help you improve your mental health knowledge and provide the best possible environment for your classroom.

How can pupils be supported through stress and anxiety?

1. Start a conversation about mental health

One of the best ways to ensure mental health is spoken about in your classroom is to raise the topic yourself. This will increase the children’s awareness, reduce stigma around the topic and increase the likelihood that they will seek help when they need it.

We love starting with:

“Tell me about a time when you were happy/sad/stressed…”

“How well do you feel on a scale of 1-10?”

Opening up this conversation can feel daunting and adults often worry they will say or do the wrong thing. Here are some tips on talking to children about mental health that we find effective.

2. Read about mental health

Providing books that discuss various aspects of mental health is also great for creating an open space for mental health discussions. These books can also help children develop empathy towards people struggling with mental health issues, reduce stigma surrounding the topic and create confidence to seek help when it is needed.

Here are some children’s mental health books that we love. These range from short, fun, illustrated tales for younger children to longer features suited to older children and teenagers.

3. Mental health classroom activities

Sometimes the best learning is done through fun! We suggest opening up a mental health dialogue through doing engaging activities with the class. There are lots of great activities available online that tackle mental health in an age-appropriate way, allowing for children to learn how to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Our #SockItToStigma activity pack can be a fun starting point to open opportunities to speak about mental health, breaking the stigma around this serious subject.

4. Complete mental health training courses

At Shawmind, we offer a wide variety of mental health courses designed for individuals and professionals to develop their understanding of mental health, learn how to best support young people, and what to do in an emergency.

We are also raising funds for our Headucation campaign that will enable us to offer free mental health education for teachers. We are mobilizing corporate sponsors and individuals to help us bring about a transformation in the mental health of the next generation: working with local educational authorities and partner organisations we are bringing a whole-school approach to mental health, helping schools to develop a culture shift towards sustainable better mental health and wellbeing – free of charge to the schools.

Help us by donating, fundraising or signing up for one of our courses.

Donate to #Headucation2025

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How to support mental health in classrooms

Mental health affects many children, with 75% of diagnosable mental health conditions being present before the age of eighteen. Mental health in young people often goes undiagnosed, however, with an estimated 20% of children having an undiagnosed mental illness.

With depression and anxiety being some of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents it is crucial for those working with children to be able to recognise the signs of mental health conditions in adolescence and understand how to support them effectively.

Although mental health training in schools isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government, teachers play a key role in supporting good mental health. Without the right training, however, it can be hard to know how to support mental health in the classroom. Training initiatives and campaigns such as Headucation can support you in better understanding mental health in the classroom and how you can support your students.

Tips for supporting mental health in classrooms:

1. Understand mental health needs within schools.

Being able to define mental health in children and understanding the factors that affect children’s mental health is an important step in learning how you can support mental health within classrooms. Mental health affects all children differently and therefore having a solid understanding of the needs within your school will allow you to provide the right support and information to students experiencing mental health issues. Have a look at our Youth Mental Health Awareness training course if you are looking to upskill and educate yourself or your staff to help you understand the mental health needs within your school.

2. Learn to recognise and understand the symptoms of mental health

Most schools should have a trained Mental Health First Aider, or Youth Mental Health First Aider, however providing all staff with the knowledge they need to recognise and understand mental health symptoms will give you the ability to support your Mental Health First Aider and will lay the foundations for you to implement a mental wellbeing plan. By understanding the symptoms, you will be better equipped to give support to someone struggling with mental health and facilitate the recovery process. Our Basics of Mental Health Support training course provides an overview of the mental health process that covers all of these areas and more.

3. Understand what factors affect mental health in classrooms. How can you limit these?

Sometimes there can be factors within a school setting that can affect a child’s mental health. Identifying these factors can allow you to better understand how to support someone struggling with it. Cyberbullying, for example, can affect mental health in young people. Understanding what it is, how it occurs and the effect it has on people’s mental health will allow you to both offer support to those affected and reduce their exposure to it within the school environment. We offer several self-learning courses that support your understanding of different areas of mental health and factors that can affect mental health in individuals.

4. Educate students about mental health

Learning about mental health in schools helps to reduce stigma around the topic by raising awareness and providing children with accurate information. By starting a conversation with young people about mental health you can increase their understanding and awareness and reduce stigmas and the fear of judgement often associated with mental health. Read more about different ways to start a conversation about mental health in your classroom.

There is a lot of stigma around mental health, especially in young people, and it can therefore be difficult to identify mental health concerns in schools. Following the above tips can help you support young people struggling with mental health, however, it is equally important to remove the stigma associated with it. This February we are running out annual Sock it to Stigma! campaign to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage it can cause. Help your school show an understanding and acceptance of mental and emotional wellbeing challenges in both children and staff. #SockItToStigma is a fun and interactive way to get these conversations started. Use this opportunity to talk about mental health in your classrooms.

One of the key ways you can support young people with their mental health is by referring them to expert or expert resources and by providing alternative mental health support for those who don’t wish to visit their GP for support.

Teachers and schools play a vital role in the support of mental health conditions in children, but they need more help to do it effectively. Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support which will allow them to comfortably provide children with the support they need.

All funds raised during #SockItToStigma will go straight into our #Headucation fund. Help us to provide as many fully-funded training sessions to schools as possible. Help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

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How to talk about mental health in classrooms

Our annual Sock it to Stigma! campaign seeks to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage that stigma can cause by getting schools to talk about it.

Mental health can often feel like a daunting topic to tackle with school children, but it’s integral that they learn about it now to reduce stigma in the future. Here are 4 ways to start a conversation about mental health and stigma in your classroom.

Mental health classroom activities

Our #SockItToStigma activity pack can be a fun starting point to open up opportunities to speak about mental health, breaking the stigma around this serious subject.

This pack includes:

  • Sock It To Stigma Fortune Teller – encourages children to take actions that can teach them about mental health and make them more mindful of others
  • Sock It To Stigma Happy Cube – helps children to think about things that make them happy when they feel low
  • Sock It To Stigma Word Search – teaches children important words related to mental health so they become familiar rather than scary or taboo
  • Sock It To Sigma Feeling Cards – children can create cards to more easily demonstrate and communicate how they are feeling without fear of judgement or misinterpretation

Our activity pack also includes fabulous creative exercises that you can share on social media to show that your school will #SockItToStigma and encourage open conversations about mental health.

Download our Activity Pack

Start a conversation about mental health

One of the simplest ways to make sure mental health is talked about in your classroom is to start the conversation yourself.

By starting conversations with children about mental health, you can help to increase their awareness, reduce stigma and fear of judgement, and increase the likelihood that they’ll seek treatment when needed sooner rather than later.

Some great icebreakers include:

“Tell me about a time when you were happy/sad/stressed…”

“How well do you feel on a scale of 1-10?”

Adults can often feel uncomfortable talking to children about mental health or fear saying something “wrong”, so here are our top tips for talking to children about mental health.

Mental Health Animations & Videos

What child doesn’t love watching videos at school? They can be a great tool to communicate basic mental health information to children before starting a conversation or mental health activity.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has created some great video resources to help children learn about mental health, including:

Read about mental health

Books can be a great way to get children thinking and talking about mental health in a more comfortable classroom environment.

By using literature, the questions and conversations around mental health can be focused on the characters in the books – taking pressure off shy and nervous children who may not wish to discuss their own mental health with others in the classroom.

Mental health books can also help children to develop an understanding of feelings and mental health conditions that they have never experienced themselves, which in turn can improve their empathy and reduce stigma around mental health in the future.

Trigger Publishing have a wide range of children’s mental health books from fun illustrated short tales designed for primary school children to longer features better suited for older children.

Of course, teachers cannot do any of this without the proper training. Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support which will allow them to comfortably provide children with the support they need.

All funds raised during #SockItToStigma will go straight into our #Headucation fund. Right now, schools have to pay for mental health training themselves since it isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government – we want to provide as many fully-funded training sessions as possible.

Help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

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How to spot the signs of teen mental health conditions


The NHS say “It can be difficult for parents to tell whether their teenagers are just “being teens” or if there is something more serious going on.”

But with 50% of all mental health conditions starting by the age of 14, it is possible that the behaviours associated with “being teens” are symptoms of mental health conditions more often than we think. This attitude towards teenage behaviour and mental health has led to increased levels of stigma, lower levels of awareness and ultimately a massive delay in treatment for mental health conditions.

At Shawmind, we’re on a mission to improve mental health support for teenagers by training teachers in the basics of mental health through our Headucation campaign.

Common mental health conditions in teenagers

Mental health conditions can develop at any age, however, some of the most common mental health conditions experienced by teenagers are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Abuse & Addiction
  • Behavioural Disorders e.g. OCD or ADHD

Left untreated, these conditions can lead to self-harm and suicide.

Signs of mental health conditions in teenagers

Symptoms of mental health conditions can often overlap. A single instance of these may not always be cause for concern however if you notice multiple instances or a prolonged period of emotional and physical symptoms, you should seek help.

As a teacher or family member, you should be on the lookout for the following signs of mental health conditions in teenagers.

Signs of depression in teenagers

  • Persistent low mood
  • Frequent or easy tearfulness
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm in activities they used to enjoy
  • Avoiding social situations and contact
  • Difficulties sleeping

Signs of anxiety in teenagers

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance at school
  • Feeling tired
  • Avoiding new situations
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Frequent toilet visits
  • Constant worrying and negative thoughts
  • Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
  • Emotional outbursts

Signs of eating disorders in teenagers

  • Change in eating habits
  • A rapid change in weight
  • Frequent comments about weight, food, and size
  • Secretive about eating habits
  • Reluctance to eat with others
  • Toilet visits straight after eating

Signs of substance abuse & addiction in teenagers

  • Loss of interest in activities that once interested them
  • Change in social circles
  • Criminal activities e.g. theft, and vandalism (even if only at home)
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Red eyes and bad skin

Signs of ADHD in teenagers

  • Constant fidgeting
  • Impulsiveness
  • Frequently interrupting
  • Difficulty concentrating for long periods
  • Making careless mistakes in school work

Signs of OCD in teenagers

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Intense need for order (i.e. will not deviate from the specified process)
  • Frequent checking and re-checking and need for reassurance
  • Feeling scared, disgusted or depressed

Signs of self-harm and suicidal thoughts in teenagers

  • Frequent injuries (e.g. cuts, bruises, scrapes)
  • Keeping themselves fully covered even in hot weather
  • Signs of low self-esteem, anxiety or depression
  • Isolating themselves from others

What puts teens at risk of mental health conditions

Many risk factors can lead to mental health conditions, the more factors a teenager is exposed to increases the likelihood of them developing a mental health condition.

  • Risk factors include
  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • Bereavement
  • Difficult home situations (e.g. divorce)
  • Moving home or school
  • Parents with mental health conditions
  • Physical or developmental disabilities

How to help teens with mental health

All adults in a teenager’s life have a responsibility to spot and support their mental health. We believe teachers can be particularly effective in providing early intervention to prevent conditions from deteriorating to crisis levels. Since teachers spend a significant amount of time with teenagers at school but with enough distance to be able to quickly notice changes in behaviour or performance, with the proper mental health training teachers can provide invaluable support.

As well as looking out for the signs of mental health conditions in teenagers, you can actively work to reduce the stigma around mental health by having open conversations about it. This will normalise the concept of mental health for teenagers and make them more likely to acknowledge their symptoms and reach out when they need help. All adults can do this, regardless of whether you’re a parent, carer, friend, relative, or teacher.

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to helping teens with mental health is to refer them to an expert or expert resources. Many teenagers don’t want to go via the GP for mental health support so may prefer alternative mental health support options such as:

Read more about how to help teens with mental health

Our Headucation campaign aims to provide fully-funded mental health training to teachers so that they can provide crucial mental health support to teenagers in schools. Help us by supporting our campaign – buy a product from our store, enrol on one of our courses or donate to our fundraiser.

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