Teachers

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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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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Training

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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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Sock it to Stigma! 2021


Our annual Sock it to Stigma! (SITS) campaign seeks to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage that stigma can cause. Each year we ask organisations to get all their employees wearing their brightest socks, on show, to create a fun discussion point around which to rally about this serious subject. We send out special activity packs to over 400 schools, for teachers to use to engage with children on a variety of mental health topics in a fun way. This year’s campaign will launch with Children’s Mental Health Week and will run throughout February.

Mental ill health is all too often a topic that is not widely spoken about, especially in a workplace environment, with individuals fearing that they will be let go, not given as much responsibility or have their challenges ignored entirely by their colleagues and superiors. When mental ill health is not dealt with, it can have a hugely negative impact on productivity and work performance.

By taking part in SITS, you are showing that you are not afraid to stand up and be counted when it comes to fighting the stigma surrounding mental health, and that your employees and colleagues can come to you for support and advice, and be taken seriously without judgement or repercussion. SITS has proven to be a fun, interactive way of getting conversations about mental health started.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in the numbers of people struggling with their mental health, especially those placed on furlough, those moving to remote working, and those who are suddenly finding themselves trying to juggle work alongside childcare and homeschooling.

Organisations are encouraged to proactively embrace projects which show that they are both understanding and accepting of the mental and emotional wellbeing challenges of their staff, and that they are there to support them as far as possible.

One way to do this is to organise a simple fundraising and sock-wearing competition between staff or departments, where each challenges the other to raise money for the SITS cause (mental health training for schools, nationally) and the company commits to match what the employees raise. Fundraisers usually involve doing something fun that can be shared on the intranet or on social media – but the compulsory ingredient in the mix is that the activity must be done whilst wearing your brightest, weirdest socks!

We will support participating employees, organisations and schools through our social media and PR, and those who run fundraising projects for our benefit as part of their SITS participation will receive complementary Lunch & Learn sessions.

Want to know how to participate in this year’s SITS campaign?

Download our Events info pack here, or if you are a school download a free Activity Pack here. Or simply call or email us…we would love for you to get involved!

This year we are raising funds to provide basic mental health training to teachers. Why is this important? 3 out 4 diagnosed with a serious mental health condition could have been diagnosed before their 18th birthday – making it imperative that teachers understand the basics of mental health and what to be vigilant for in the classroom. To date, teachers do not receive mental health training as part of their initial teacher training course.

Just £5 provides 1 mental health first responder for 1 child in a class. You can help us make sure the next generation has better support for mental health.

 

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Teachers’ journey throughout the pandemic

What was going through your head when the first lockdown was announced? I know my first questions were ‘How long will we be in this lockdown for?’ and ‘When will I be able to see my friends again?’ But then I realized there would be some people out there that had a lot worse things to worry about, ‘Will I lose my job?’, ‘Will I be able to pay my rent this month?’, so really, I didn’t have it bad at all. But after hearing about all the children being taken out of the classroom and thrown into online learning, my thinking changed: 

‘What did our teachers have to go through?’ ‘What was is like to be a teacher during the pandemic?’ ‘How did teachers manage their wellbeing during all of this?’

 

When the first lockdown was announced

I personally heard people say negative things about teachers when the first lockdown was announced, but I think those people may have been too quick to judge. We forget sometimes that teachers are human beings just like you and me. Teachers have fears, stresses, anxiety; and they have other family members to take care of too, just like everyone else. They also don’t work the standard 9-5 that people assume they do. They start early in the morning, finish sometimes late into the evening, and even then, they take their worries and stresses about their pupils home with them. For many, teaching is a calling and not just a job.

I spoke with head teacher Kelly MacKay who, in January, was dealing with flooding in her local area, on top of her duties as head teacher of a primary school. Then, shortly after the flooding chaos, she was hit with the lockdown announcement. As head teacher, the first thing Kelly had to do was prepare the staff and parents for the pandemic. Remote learning had to be put in place, parents had to be notified of the changes that would be taking place, at the same time Kelly still had to conduct her normal head teacher duties. 60% of primary school parents across the UK later reported that they were struggling with the remote learning, so getting this system working as smoothly as possible added to the stress and pressure that Kelly, like so many other head teachers, was placed under. Not only that, but also wellbeing training had to be put in place so that the teachers could still do their job effectively and stay well mentally and emotionally. Kelly’s school managed to provide their students with remote learning within one week of the announcement. Amazing!

Switching to remote learning

After speaking with author, part-time lecturer and former head teacher David Gumbrell, I have realized that one positive thing that came from the pandemic for teachers is that the relationships between themselves and other teachers became so much stronger. There was the realization that the connectedness between staff members was what made remote learning work. They had to be resilient and work together as a team to be able to do their jobs successfully.

I think I can speak for most people when I say we all have some sort of routine we each follow day in day out. Having a routine gives us feelings of safety and security. When teachers had to go from face-to-face learning to remote learning, a whole new routine had to be created for themselves and for their students. David came up with a strategy to break up his lectures while still providing work for his students. This was so important because the students were getting the education they needed as well as having breaks in between to support their wellbeing and carry on interactively with their class. Throughout the pandemic it is so important to create strategies and routines. One strategy David kindly shared with me was simple: self-compassion. He informed other teachers that they had to take care of themselves first to be able to help and teach their students successfully. Self-compassion is composed of three parts: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. These three parts mean that you are understanding and kind to yourself, you realize you aren’t the only one that feels pain and then overcoming your pain and suffering through mindfulness. Self-compassion is all about loving yourself through the pain and suffering you are feeling.

Preparation strategy

Many people have some sort of mental health related issue at some point in their lives, and teachers are no exception. So imagine how the pandemic has affected the number of those teachers who might have already been suffering with anxiety and stress for example, before the pandemic. The government provided funding for teachers to help their student’s mental health but, how are teachers supposed to provide their students with help when they themselves are struggling? We need to help our teachers with their wellbeing so that they can help their students – our next generation! It has been proven that children mirror the behaviours of their role models and those they spend a vast majority of their time with; we need our teachers to be happy and mentally & emotionally healthy so that children can mirror their positivity.

Adam Parkes, who specializes in teacher wellbeing kindly shared with me one of his strategies for helping teachers during the pandemic. He told the teachers that he works with to ‘visualize the worst-case scenario’. This may sound counter-intuitive, but everything else that then happens instead will seem like a bonus! And ‘Prepare to test positive for COVID-19.’ By following this advice, teachers could then plan and prepare to work remotely and would already have everything in place to carry on, should COVID strike.

 

Support our teachers

Steve Waters, a former teacher who is now working with schools to create strategies for teacher wellbeing, says that in a recent poll of head teachers in the UK, a staggering 47% said that they were planning to leave their jobs after the pandemic. We were already in need of teachers and the pandemic has now compounded the problem. It has really caused teachers to view their jobs in a completely different light. According to Steve, the way that schools and their results are being inspected during the pandemic really needs to be re-considered as it is driving our teachers to leave their jobs which will then have a massive negative impact on the education of our next generation.

As Adam Parkes said, ‘Don’t let our teachers feel like they are pawns in a game.’ Don’t forget that teachers are just human beings like you and me, they are going through the exact same stresses caused by the pandemic, that you and I may share, on top of giving your children and everyone else’s children the education they need and deserve.

Resilience, self-compassion, connectedness, kindness, flexibility, active listening and expecting the unexpected. These are all things teachers have had to learn and apply to their everyday life whilst still coping with the already-present stresses of the teaching. We need to support our teachers now more than ever!

Shawmind aims to train 151,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support over the next 5 years – you can help us achieve this goal!

 

 

Article written for Shawmind by Angelica Shaw

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