Thoughts & Ideas

How to support common mental health conditions in schools

1 in 6 school-aged children develop a common mental health condition, yet at present teachers receive no training to support children’s mental health.

As part of our Headucation campaign, we’re aiming to train teachers in the basics of mental health so that they can provide early intervention to children and support the development of positive mental health.

Without sufficient training, teachers may feel unprepared to deal with common mental health conditions that children experience and that have an impact on their education. We want to help teachers to feel more confident and prepared. Here are some common mental health conditions you may see in children and some initial steps you can take to support them.

Anxiety in schools

Anxiety is incredibly common in children and may be more common in particular situations such as public speaking, demonstrations and socialising. Some children may experience anxiety so severe or frequent that it disrupts their daily lives.

Signs of anxiety in school

Some common signs of anxiety in children can include poor performance, irritability and even physical manifestations like stomach aches. Find out more about the signs of anxiety in children.

How to support anxiety in school

  1. Help children face their fears by helping them identify what is making them anxious and help them to develop strategies for coping
  2. Ask questions about previous experiences to help them uncover triggers and emotions linked to the anxiety-inducing situation
  3. Celebrate small wins with pupils when they take a step towards facing their anxiety
  4. Talk openly about anxiety with all children to reduce stigma and encourage them to seek help

ADHD in schools

ADHD describes children who demonstrate overactive and impulsive behaviours as well as difficulties concentrating and paying attention. It is thought that 2-5% of children have ADHD in the UK. Without proper support, ADHD can make it difficult for children to achieve high grades, build relationships and develop high self-esteem.

Signs of ADHD in school

Common signs of ADHD in school children include forgetfulness, difficulty focusing on and completing tasks, fidgeting and interrupting.

How to support ADHD in school

  1. Find opportunities for children to walk around the classroom during lessons, e.g. games, writing things on the whiteboard or regular breaks
  2. Give children more time to process information before responding by outlining the lesson prior to starting
  3. Break work into smaller chunks so that there is less to focus on at once
  4. Use special phrases that grab attention and stimulate interest, e.g. “wait for it”, “here we go”, or “the next part is really interesting”
  5. Develop your knowledge and understanding of ADHD with courses and training

Eating Disorders in schools

Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or background – despite the stereotypes that exist in the media. Eating disorders are often associated with severely limiting one’s food intake or purging after eating through laxatives or inducing vomiting – however it can also include eating extreme quantities of food at once, excessive fasting, excessive exercise in response to food intake or any combination of these behaviours.

Most eating disorders start in childhood or adolescence, so schools can play a crucial part in spotting the signs and providing early intervention.

Signs of eating disorders in schools

Children and young people with eating disorders may skip meals, avoid eating around others, disappear after mealtimes and even display physical symptoms of malnutrition including thinning hair and dry skin.

How to support eating disorders in schools

  1. Educate yourself about eating disorders to better understand the signs, symptoms and help available. (Why not take a look at our online course on eating disorders?)
  2. Talk openly about eating disorders to reduce stigma and encourage children to seek help
  3. Share tools and resources that children can use to access support when they need it. Beat is an incredible eating disorder charity with great support for young people.
  4. Discuss any concerns you have with your school’s safeguarding lead as well as the child’s parent/carer

Insecure attachment in schools

Attachment is a complex psychological theory around the bonds formed between children and their primary caregiver(s). Insecure attachments are formed when a child has a negative or poor bond with their caregiver that is often a result of the home environment being a source of fear rather than safety. Insecure attachments in school children can lead to disruptive behaviour and difficulty forming relationships in later life.

Signs of insecure attachment

Many children with insecure attachments do not feel safe around other people and as such may refuse to ask for help, avoid social situations and elicit inappropriate responses to emotional situations (e.g. laughing when someone is in pain).

How to support insecure attachment in schools

  1. Build positive relationships with the child that help them feel safe, enabling you to work on any behavioural issues they display
  2. Engage with other adults in their life to understand what is causing the child to feel this way
  3. Discuss the attachment issues with a professional or undertake training in attachment theory

Depression and low mood in school

It is normal for a child (or adult) to not feel 100% happy all the time and to experience times when they feel irritable with little pleasure of motivation. However, if someone feels this way consistently for longer than two weeks, they may be suffering with depression or low mood.

Signs of depression in school

Depression can be caused by many factors including bullying and exam stress – common signs of depression in children include irritability, not wanting to attend school and losing interest in things they once enjoyed.

How to support depression in schools

  1. Educate yourself so that you can fully understand how children with depression may feel and act
  2. Signpost to professional resources that can help children understand their own mental health
  3. Express an interest in how they are feeling so that they know they can talk to you (or another member of staff they may feel more comfortable with)
  4. Share any concerns with other wellbeing leaders within the school who can take the appropriate next steps

Take a look at our online self-led course Understanding Depression or get in touch to discuss mental health training for teachers through #Headucation.

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. Help us raise money for Headucation so we can provide fully-funded mental health training to schools that will enable their teachers to act as first responders and support children in the early stages of mental health conditions.

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How can young people get mental health support

Young people need mental health support more than ever. Help us make it better by supporting our Headucation campaign.

50% of all mental health problems start by the age of 14 (with 1 in 6 school-aged children having a common mental health condition) but there is an average 10-year delay between showing the first signs and getting appropriate treatment.

According to research, the most common reason young people had for not seeking support was ‘not feeling like their problem was bad enough’. Because of this sentiment, it’s not surprising that nearly 70% of young people would prefer to not have to go through a GP for mental health problems but only 50% are aware of other routes.

Even when teenagers are referred to specialist mental health services such as CAMHS, they are often rejected or made to join a long waiting list as these services are massively overstretched.

It’s clear that young people need more mental health support alternatives to the GP and NHS providers.

How can young people get mental health support without a GP?

Mental health organisations for young people

Many organisations offer great advice and resources for young people struggling with their mental health that can be accessed for free online and therefore require no referral from a GP.

There are also several great books on mental health available from Trigger Publishing that can help young people to learn useful techniques and draw from others’ experiences with mental health.

Mental health support in schools and workplaces

Many of the problems around young people’s mental health support come down to a lack of knowledge, a lack of accessibility and existing stigma around the topic. We can overcome these issues by making mental health support available within schools and young people’s workplaces.

Training a Mental Health First Aider or providing basic mental health training to staff can help to:

  • Increase awareness of the causes of mental health problems in young people
  • Spot the early warning signs of mental health problems in young people
  • Provide early intervention and initial support
  • Signpost to appropriate professional mental health support services when needed

Our Headucation campaign aims to provide fully-funded mental health training to teachers so that they can provide this mental health support to young people in schools.

All proceeds from our workplace mental health training programmes go straight into our Headucation fund.

Mental health peer support groups

Peer support groups are the perfect way for young people to support each other with mental health, normalise the conversation and reduce stigma for future generations.

Mental health peer support can take place in person or online and are offered by many mental health organisations

Mental Health Helplines

Young people must know about a few mental health helplines so that they can access support in critical times or outside of other organised support events.

By helping young people to access alternatives to GP mental health support, we can reduce the number of young people in need of intense clinical support and enable professional services to provide fast and efficient critical support for those who still need it.

Help us improve mental health support for young people by supporting our Headucation campaign – buy a product from our store, enrol on one of our courses or donate to our fundraiser.

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How to maintain a social life without alcohol

As a nation, Brits are renowned drinkers. Many of our social activities tend to revolve around drinking alcohol, pubs, bars and clubs. The drinking culture we have in Britain can make it hard for those avoiding alcohol to still be social without feeling like an outsider or even pressured to drink. Removing yourself from social situations completely can impact your wellbeing given how integral socialising is to building and maintaining positive mental health.

Some choose to forgo alcohol for personal or religious reasons, whilst others may be battling problems with alcohol or alcoholism. Many people forget (especially those who don’t struggle with alcohol) that alcoholism and other substance addictions are serious and challenging mental health conditions that need the appropriate support from those around them. But many people don’t want to sacrifice their social habits which means that sober people can often feel excluded.

But it’s not impossible to maintain a social life without. ‘Go Sober for October’ presents a great opportunity for us to share some tips for those with a difficult relationship with alcohol to maintain a healthy, sober social life.

Find alternative activities

If you can find other ways to spend time with people besides drinking, you will find it much easier to have an enjoyable social life without alcohol. Rather than going to a club for your birthday, why not try an activity like paintballing or a trip to the cinema? These activities don’t always have to be completely alcohol-free either – you can simply find ways to minimise the emphasis that will be placed on alcohol. Instead of going to the pub for dinner, find a restaurant where the focus will primarily be on the food.

It helps to have a couple of good options on hand for when people suggest something you think could be difficult for you. Figure out what activities you enjoy and what’s on offer locally so that you can always make a counter-suggestion if needed.

Find alternative drinks

While it may seem obvious to find something non-alcoholic to drink when staying sober, the key is to find something you genuinely enjoy drinking so that alcohol becomes less appealing. This can also make it easier to attend the same social gatherings as usual since you’ll have an alternative drink to look forward to. This can be a standard soft drink, speciality alcohol-free option (like mocktails) or even a hot drink. Try a few things out and see what you like.

Learn to say ‘no’

The people-pleasing part of many of us can make it difficult to say no to people when they ask us to do something or offer us something.

But it’s very unlikely that a situation will arise when refusing to drink alcohol will have catastrophic consequences – if anything, it’s likely to have the opposite effect in the long term.

Get used to saying ‘no’ by continuously turning down offers for drinks (or alcohol-centred social events if you find them challenging). You could even engineer this by having a friend who knows what you’re trying to do and get them to continuously offer you drinks so you can practice.

At the start of your sober journey there will always be questions about why you’re not drinking or why you won’t have ‘just one’. In this situation, you’ll massively benefit from having some prepared responses to decrease the chance of you being talked into drinking. Here are some examples:

  • “I just feel better when I don’t drink”
  • “I’m not feeling great and don’t want to make it worse”
  • “I had a bad experience a while back and I’ve been put off since then”
  • “My doctor said I can’t drink for a little while”

These don’t always have to be completely true, sometimes you just need a way to get people to drop the subject and move on.

If someone keeps pushing you and seems intent on getting you to drink, Mark Willenbring, an addiction psychiatrist, suggests asking “does my not drinking make you uncomfortable?” as this will often get them to immediately stop and reflect on their actions.

Prepare your friends and family

If you feel comfortable opening up to your loved ones about your choice to stop drinking, it will make it easier for you to avoid alcohol in social situations. They’ll be less likely to offer you alcohol (which means you don’t have to feel awkward about saying ‘no’) and may actively try to find non-alcohol-centred social events for you to go to.

Similarly to when saying ‘no’, you don’t have to tell everyone the whole story if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Keeping it simple and saying “I feel better when I don’t drink” is absolutely fine!

Have a sober network

We can probably all agree that it’s easier to stick to any commitment when there is more than one person involved. Arrange social events with other people who are sober or invite a sober friend along to other social events to help you stay away from alcohol. If you can’t bring them along, you can send them a message or give them a call with things get tough.

If you don’t have someone who is actively trying to avoid alcohol, ask for help from someone you trust who can help you stay away from alcohol.

Find healthy ways to respond to triggers

Some people drink when happy, some drink when they’re stressed and others drink for a variety of reasons. Take some time to identify why you drink so that you can prepare alternative ways to respond to that situation.

Drinking when stressed? Try going for a walk.

Drinking in celebration? Why not go out for afternoon tea?

Knowing what your triggers are can also help you avoid them – but we know it’s not always a realistic long-term strategy.

It’s not impossible to maintain a social life while battling alcoholism – but it might take some work.

Sometimes your social life will change as a result of becoming sober, but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Often, going sober can help you spend more quality time with your friends and family, build stronger relationships and allow you to feel better both mentally and physically.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol, reach out to Drinkaware.

Want to find out more about the mental health side and implications of additions like alcoholism? Take a look at our mental health awareness courses covering a range of mental health conditions and how you can spot and support those struggling.

All funds from our courses go directly into our Headucation campaign that aims to improve mental health in children and young people by training teachers in the basics of mental health support.

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5 ways to build positive mental health

Everyone has mental health – for some, it’s better and for some, it’s worse. Mental health often fluctuates and even those who generally have good mental health can have low moments.

However, there are some things you can do to look after your mental health and build a generally positive state of mental wellbeing.

Use these tips to improve your own mental health or use these as teaching points for children so that we can improve the mental wellbeing of the next generation.

Be mindful

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present and can help to build positive mental health by reducing how much we dwell on the past or fret about the future. Not only that, but by improving our mindfulness we can appreciate the present more, become more attentive and improve our self-awareness – all of which contribute to positive mental health.

You can practice mindfulness almost anywhere e.g. while taking a walk, eating, sitting down or during your regular commute!

Kickstart your mindfulness journey with our 6-week mindfulness course that combines humour, sensitivity and true stories to teach you essential mindfulness techniques.

Stay active

Many studies have shown a link between exercise and positive mental health – when your exercise your body releases endorphins that make you feel good. Staying active doesn’t mean that you need to hit the gym every day – a simple stretch in the morning or a stroll at lunch can be enough to get your endorphins going.

Need some healthy living inspiration? Check out these books from TriggerPublishing.

Help others

Helping others is a great way to support positive mental health as it can help you achieve a sense of accomplishment and gain perspective. Often those who are considered more ‘generous’ tend to have positive mental health and strong resilience.

There are plenty of ways you can help others, such as

  • Having a conversation about their worries
  • Raising money or donating to a charitable cause (why not donate to Headucation?)
  • Look out for signs of anxiety or signs that someone is struggling with their own mental health
  • Complete a task with or for someone else
  • Volunteer with a local charity or at a local event
  • Tell your own story. Writing can be cathartic and by telling your story you could be helping someone to feel that they are not alone, that there is hope that things can get better. Our friends over at Cherish Editions provide potential authors with a great platform to do just that.

Learn new skills

Learning new skills keeps your brain stimulated, gives you a new challenge to focus on and leads to a great sense of satisfaction. Those who learn new skills regularly often report better wellbeing and mental health.

You can learn new skills to support your career, take up a new hobby or improve your knowledge of something that you’re interested in.

Not sure where to start? Develop new skills with FlourishZone or improve your mental health knowledge with Shawmind’s online mental health training courses.

Connect with people

Talking to people and forming relationships are some of the best ways you can look after your mental health but for many, it can be daunting to open up to others.

Proximity to family, friends and colleagues makes them some of the most convenient people to connect with but being vulnerable with those we know can often be more difficult than opening up to strangers.

Joining activities like gym classes or social clubs can be a good way to meet new people to build relationships with – or you can visit mental health support groups and drop-in sessions like Shawmind’s Breathe Café if you want to talk with someone impartial.

There will likely be a time in your life when you will struggle with your mental health but by building these habits into your life you will become more resilient and generally have more positive mental health.

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. Help us do this for the next generation by supporting Headucation – our mission to train teachers in the basics of mental health support.

Donate to our fundraiser or sign up for one of our training courses.

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What is workplace anxiety?

Many of us are likely to feel anxious or stressed at work occasionally, however, if your anxiety is constant or increasingly frequent you’re likely dealing with some degree of workplace anxiety.

It’s the International Week of Happiness at work from 20th to the 24th September 2021 and we want to make sure all workplaces are equipped to be the happiest they can be by tackling workplace anxiety.

What is workplace anxiety?

Workplace anxiety is different to generalised anxiety disorder as it is specifically related to the work environment. While the anxiety doesn’t have to occur in the workplace, workplace anxiety is caused by workplace triggers (e.g. you may feel workplace anxiety the evening before you go to work).

The causes and level of severity are different for each individual but in the most severe instances, workplace anxiety can be debilitating and stop employees from carrying out their duties.

What causes workplace anxiety?

There are many causes of workplace anxiety and the specifics will always vary by each person however some common causes of workplace anxiety include:

  • Workplace bullying or discrimination
  • Minimal or no support from managers
  • Tough working conditions e.g. unsafe environment or long hours
  • Lack of relationships with colleagues
  • Fear of inadequacy or judgement
  • Tight deadlines / overwhelming workload
  • Lack of control over your work

Many people don’t seek help for anxiety soon enough for fear of judgement or because they feel their problem is not severe enough – it’s important to remember that regardless of the cause, your feelings are valid and just as deserving of support as anyone else’s.

What effect does workplace anxiety have?

Anxiety can be debilitating, but what does that mean for the workplace?

When someone is struggling with anxiety they may be less productive e.g. miss deadlines, produce lower quality work, or make mistakes that can be costly to the business.

Anxiety can also manifest itself physically and cause the employee to take more time off which also has financial and productivity implications for businesses – especially small to medium-sized organisations and teams.

Employees struggling with workplace anxiety for a prolonged time can become withdrawn and irritable – negatively impacting company culture and staff morale.

Many who struggle with anxiety, particularly when caused by a lack of confidence or feelings of inadequacy, may make career decisions based on these feelings and miss out on promotions or change their career path altogether.

How to manage workplace anxiety?

1. Look out for signs of anxiety

Knowing the signs of workplace anxiety can help you spot them in yourself and others so that you can make adjustments to your working life before the anxiety becomes more severe.

2. Undergo training on anxiety

Completing some basic training around anxiety can help you learn why it occurs, how to handle it and how to prevent it. Take a look at our self-paced online Understanding Anxiety course.

3. Implement mental health first aiders

Mental health first aiders (MHFA) are one of the best tools an organisation can use to spot, prevent and support those with workplace anxiety. A mental health first aider acts as the first point of contact for any employees who want to discuss their mental health.

As well as being trained to talk to employees who reach out, mental health first aiders are also provided with the training to spot when someone in the business may be struggling with their mental health but not voicing it. This enables the first aider to make the first move and provide support to those employees who are struggling.

A mental health first aider can also help business leaders make their organisations more mental health-friendly e.g. identifying when working arrangements may need to change.

We offer a 2-day Mental Health First Aid Course that can be delivered online via Zoom, or face to face either in one of our settings, or your own workplace.

All funds from our Mental Health First Aid training course goes directly to our Headucation campaign – so by training a mental health first aider in your business, you’ll also be supporting children’s mental health for years to come!

4. Learn how to manage workplace anxiety

The more you can educate yourself and others to manage anxiety, the better the whole workplace can become. While dedicated individuals such as mental health first aiders can suggest support options, the decision to take action always lies with the person suffering from anxiety.

Some ways to self-manage anxiety are:

  • Talk to colleagues
  • Build relationships at work
  • Treat mental and physical health the same
  • Keep notes
  • Make changes to accommodate your anxiety
  • Set realistic deadlines
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Practice healthy habits
  • Focus on facts

Read more about ways to deal with workplace anxiety

If you’re an employer, you need to ensure you are taking the appropriate action to support your staff with workplace anxiety. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with Shawmind for advice and ideas! Or, take the first step towards a happier workplace by signing up for one of our mental health training courses – all funds go towards Headucation to improve mental health for the next generation.

If you’re an employee, the sooner you can talk to your line manager or employer about your workplace anxiety the better. If you’re not confident yet, let us know who your employer is and we can reach out to them with our mental health training courses or Wellbeing Weather Check offer.

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Improving mental health in schools while we get ‘back to normal’

The anxiety about going back to school this year has been amplified by the anxiety that comes with getting ‘back to normal’ after the COVID-19 pandemic. Children already have enough to cope with but over two-thirds of young people believe the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.

Back to school anxiety has been more prevalent over the last year as children have spent more time at home than ever before but getting back to normal may also cause an increase in health anxiety, separation anxiety and social anxiety.

Children may be concerned for their physical health when going out into the world with others, uncomfortable in social situations they haven’t had to handle in over a year and fearful of spending time away from families they’ve been closer to during the pandemic.

Whether you’re a parent, carer or teacher, as a respected adult figure in their lives, there are some things you can do to improve mental health in schools as children get back to normal.

Encourage conversations about mental health

Children who do not feel as though they can express themselves can bottle up their feelings, leaving them to fester and build up in their minds until the worries become unbearable. By talking openly about your mental health and asking children about how they’re feeling you can encourage them to speak up when something is bothering them. You can also share mental health resources that children and young people can use to develop their understanding and confidence around mental health.

Try not to ask leading questions as this may result in false answers or cause more concerns e.g. “Are you worried about mixing with people again at school?” may give children the impression there is something to worry about while “Is there anything you’re worried about?” gives children the chance to share their uninfluenced concerns.

As much as you can do to encourage conversations about mental health and let children know you’re there to talk, there may be some who will not come forward. In these cases, it’s important to look out for signs of anxiety in children so that you can take appropriate action and intervene if needed.

Practice getting used to new situations

Anxiety is often accompanied by fearing the worst of a new situation – therefore the logical solution is to expose ourselves to that situation so it is no longer new and scary and we know what to expect. The same goes for children returning to school and getting back to normal. The more they get used to a situation, the less they have to worry about.

Gael Lindenfield, psychotherapist and the author of How to Feel Good in Difficult Times has some great advice about handling post-pandemic anxiety that perfectly applies to children. She advises breaking down situations that seem like major challenges into smaller manageable steps.

For example, if a child shows anxiety about spending break times outside with the whole school, start by having break times with a smaller group of people either indoors or in a quieter part of the playground. This will allow them to get used to the idea of spending time with more people until they feel confident and calm enough to join the whole school.

Build a routine

Similarly to practising new situations, routines enable children to know what to expect and prepare themselves for anything they may find worrying. While schools have a timetable they stick to, other parts of the day can help to build a calming routine for children including

  • Getting ready for school – e.g. knowing when to wake up and what steps to take
  • Travelling to school – e.g. how and when they travel every day
  • Break time routines – e.g. who do they spend time with and where
  • Lunchtime routines – e.g. when and what do they eat
  • After-school activities – e.g. sports, homework and socialising

Learn calming techniques

As much as we try to prevent anxiety in children, there will likely still be occasions where it builds up and children need help calming down. While severe cases may need a professional, it’s helpful for anyone who spends a lot of time with children to learn some basic calming techniques for anxiety.

Trigger has provided some great techniques from Cheryl Rickman in this article on back to normal anxiety, including using cognitive tasks to give your brain something else to focus on and carry out. You can use this with children by asking them to count back from 100 in sevens or name as many animals as they can think of from A-Z.

If you’re interested in learning more techniques to support anxiety and children’s mental health, why not purchase one of our training courses? All proceeds go to #Headucation2025 to train teachers in the basics of mental health support.

Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025 which will allow them to comfortably provide children with the support they need.

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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Why complete a Mental Health first aid course?

A mental health first aider acts as the first point of contact for anyone who want to discuss their mental health. The mental health first aider can provide advice and support in a confidential, non-judgemental way before a professional mental health specialist is contacted.

Mental health is highly important to living a healthy life. It affects our emotional, psychological and social well-being, and is integral to the way we feel, think and act. Understanding of mental health has greatly developed in recent years, however there is still a lot to learn about the problems faced by those suffering with their mental health.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, as such it should be cared for in the same way. With the level of stigma around mental health people can often feel uncomfortable talking about their feelings. Understanding how to effectively support a person struggling with their mental health is an important skill.

Who should become a mental health first aider?

A mental health first aid course is ideal for anyone looking to better understand mental health and how to support those struggling with it. Anyone can take a mental health first aid course, however there are certain professions where it is especially advisable. Understanding how to support those struggling with mental health is important within all professions, especially for those in charge of others.

Mental health in the workplace

Mental health training isn’t only beneficial for employers but can also greatly support employees. Covid has resulted in many struggling to find steady work. A large part of the recruitment process is finding candidates with the right skills for the role. Although role-specific skills are important, employers also look for candidates’ soft skills. The ability to build positive relationships with colleagues and support them in their lives creates a good company culture. Something highly important to companies, especially within a post covid society.

Mental health in education

For Teachers and Careworkers who work around young and vulnerable individuals this training can be especially beneficial. Young and vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to mental health problems, with 1 in 6 school children struggling with their mental health. Completing a mental health first aid course will give you the tools and understanding you need to support individuals with their mental health. While mental health education is compulsory in schools as a result of our initial Headucation campaign, mental health training for teachers isn’t. Teachers and education staff play a large role in the lives of children and, as such, are in the right position to recognise the signs of mental health problems within the children in their care. But how do you recognise these signs?

Why become a mental health first aider?

Negative mental health affects 1 in 4 people. By completing a mental health first aid course you can learn the skills you need to support people with their mental health. As an authority figure in someone’s life, whether that be as a teacher or employer, you are an integral part of their support process. You are not the whole solution, however.

By becoming a mental health first aider you will learn the skills to understand what can affect a person’s mental wellbeing, as well as how to identify signs of various mental health issues. By learning how to confidently reassure and support someone struggling with mental health you will be able to effectively signpost an individual to the appropriate support and resources they need. Although you are not the whole solution, you will be an important part of supporting mental wellbeing.

All proceeds from our mental health training courses will go to our Headucation2025 campaign that aims to train 151,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support. This campaign will provide front line mental health support for nearly 2.5 million school children across the country every year.

We need all the help we can get to provide this crucial training – please support us by donating, booking one of our mental health training courses or buying a product from our store.

 

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How to help teens with mental health

Young people need mental health support more than ever. Help us train teachers to provide early intervention in schools by supporting #Headucation2025.

The state of teen mental health

Mental health problems in young people are increasing with 5 children in a class of 30 likely to have a mental health condition. 50% of all mental health problems start by the age of 14 but there is an average 10-year delay between showing the first signs and getting appropriate treatment.

Some of this stems from young people and those around them not recognising the signs of mental health problems, but there is also a lot of stigma for teens around seeking mental health support. According to research, the most common reason young people had for not seeking support was ‘not feeling like their problem was bad enough’.

But how bad does it have to get before teenagers feel they deserve support?

25% of females and 10% of males aged 16-24 have reported instances of self-harm while suicide is one of the leading causes of death in 15-19-year-olds. It shouldn’t have to reach this point.

One of the biggest problems teens face when seeking mental health support is accessibility. Nearly 70% of teens would prefer to not have to go through a GP for mental health problems but only 50% are aware of other routes. When teenagers are referred to specialist mental health services such as CAMHS, they are often rejected or made to join a long waiting list as these services are massively overstretched.

We believe the key is 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 unmissed 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 teens, support mental health problems in the classroom and signpost teens to alternative mental health resources besides the GP.

Signs of teen mental health problems

It can seem difficult to distinguish what is ‘normal’ behaviour for teens and what is a sign of a mental health challenge. But regardless of the cause, surely you should help anyone displaying signs of distress? Signs of mental health problems in teens can include:

  • Low mood or frequent tearfulness
  • Little enjoyment in activities
  • High irritability
  • Increased social isolation
  • Fixation on weight/size
  • Undereating or avoiding food altogether
  • Unexplained injuries e.g. cuts and bruises
  • Wearing long clothes all the time, even in hot weather
  • Excessive tiredness

For a full list of signs, visit NHS UK.

How you can support teen mental health (without a GP)

Signpost to mental health charities

With youth mental health being such a big problem, there are several non-profit organisations and self-help resources set up to provide expert support and guidance when needed.

BreatheUni

Our own initiative, set up initially to support university students, BreatheUni has now expanded to provide support for all young people in need of mental health advice, peer support and resources. Teens can follow BreatheUni on Instagram to get updates and advice.

YoungMinds

YoungMinds, a national young people’s mental health charity, has 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.

The Mix

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

Reduce Stigma

By reducing stigma around mental health, you can encourage teens to seek help sooner and prevent their mental health from deteriorating further. Start conversations about mental health in classrooms, peer groups and families and share mental health stories from others. “We all have mental health” created by the Anna Freud Centre, is a great 5 minute animated video that tells the story of school children struggling with mental health.

Encourage them to talk

One of the first steps when managing mental health is to talk about it with someone. Make sure teens know they have someone to turn to whether that’s you, a friend, a school counsellor or online resources like the peer-support app Mee Too.

Educate yourself

The more you know, the more you can help. Access mental health training to expand your knowledge on common mental health conditions and how to support those struggling with them. Most courses are suitable for people in all situations including employers, school staff, parents and carers. MyTutor has a great guide to teen mental health for parents that is suitable for any adults working or interacting with young people.

Promote healthy habits

Many of the habits that keep us physically healthy also help to maintain our mental health. Plenty of sleep and regular exercise help to regulate our bodies and brains while sensible attitudes to diet and substances keep us from amplifying the effects of existing mental health symptoms.

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

Our #Headucation2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025 which will allow them to support 2.5 million children every year!

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. It costs £100 to train each teacher – help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

Donate to #Headucation2025

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9 realistic ways to cope with workplace anxiety

Anxiety is debilitating and doesn’t stop when you enter your workplace (or switch on your laptop) but it can feel like you need to push your mental health struggles aside when you go to work so that you can be productive and earn enough money to live your life.

We know it’s not that simple. You can’t tell yourself to stop being anxious at certain times of the day – it doesn’t work that way. Workplace anxiety can manifest itself in many ways including missing deadlines, lacking enthusiasm and having more emotional responses to problems that arise – all of which can lead to problems for you, your team and your employer.

Here are some of our recommended ways to cope with workplace anxiety.

How to cope with workplace anxiety

Talk to colleagues

When you’re struggling with anxiety at work, it can be incredibly helpful to talk to someone you trust. Talking to your colleagues can help you verbalise exactly what is triggering your anxiety, and get advice from people who understand the environment you’re in. Just remember that your coworkers may be struggling with their own mental health or may not be in a good headspace to help you – always ask them if they’re happy to talk to you first.

If there is a Mental Health First Aider in your workplace you can approach them for advice and support but since these are not yet a legal requirement, not every workplace has them.

Work-related tasks can often trigger your anxiety so make sure to also ask for help when you need it to reduce the anxiety you’ll feel in the first place.

Build relationships at work

As well as being able to talk to colleagues at work, building strong relationships with them enables them to spot when you’re behaving differently or showing signs of anxiety. They can step in to help or make adjustments that will reduce how much you will get triggered during the day without you having to ask.

Treat your mental health like your physical health

Due to the stigma that still exists around mental health, many people try to ignore symptoms of poor mental health and carry on working anyway. But would you go to work if you were throwing up? Hopefully not.

The same goes for your mental health – while keeping busy can be helpful at times, your mental health needs rest so it can heal just like your physical health does.

As with physical health problems, you are legally entitled to time off when struggling with mental health. If you don’t want to disclose the specific issue you’re struggling with, you can send a broad message to your employer to inform them that you’ll be off:

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]

Learn more about anxiety

Educating yourself about anxiety can help you better understand what causes it, the impact it can have and how to handle it. Take an anxiety course online or read the information on official websites like NHS, Mind and (of course) Shawmind.

Keep notes

There are probably common triggers and specific worries that you have at work, but anxiety can also make it difficult to keep track of these over time. Keep notes each time you feel overly anxious at work so that you can start to identify triggering situations in advance and make changes to help you cope.

Make changes to accommodate your anxiety

Everyone works in different ways so you need to find what works for you. Once you’ve identified what makes your anxiety worse see if there are any adjustments you can make to your working life to reduce your anxiety. E.g. if you find that your anxiety is triggered by email notifications popping up in the middle of other tasks you are completing, consider turning off notifications and setting aside specific times of the day to check them.

Set realistic deadlines

A common trigger for workplace anxiety is deadlines. Everyone has them in some form – either set by ourselves or set for us by someone else. The need to get work done by a certain time and the feeling that we can’t fit it all in is not unusual. There are only so many hours in the day so plan your time and determine what you can realistically get done in that timeframe and move other work around as needed. If someone else has given you more work than you can realistically achieve before the given deadline, speak up and ask them which pieces of work should be given priority.

Practice mindfulness and other techniques

Learning techniques like mindfulness can help you to gradually improve how you manage your anxiety at work. It can be difficult to do this without guidance when you’re starting out so we recommend using an app like Flourishzone that can provide you with personalised recommendations and on-demand guidance for mental health and wellbeing techniques.

Practice good habits

Simple habits like taking breaks, staying active and leaving work alone out of hours are great ways to reduce anxiety but are easy to ignore when you’re busy or struggling with anxiety already. Look for ways to keep up with these habits by setting alarms for breaks, deleting your work email account from your phone or having a friend who keeps you accountable for your actions.

State the facts

When we’re anxious or on the verge of a panic attack, our feelings often spiral and start to overwhelm us. By stating the facts and verbalising exactly what is making you feel uncomfortable you can bring your mind back to reality and find a way to move forward. Stating the facts can also be a good way to rationalise what the consequences of whatever has triggered your anxiety would really be rather than letting your imagination run wild.

What can businesses do to support employees with anxiety?

Employers have an obligation to their employees to look after their mental health – not only for their wellbeing but for the success of the organisation as a whole. Simple things businesses can do to support employees are:

Wellbeing Weather Check – this is a diagnostic tool designed to help organisations understand the levels of wellbeing within their organisations so that they implement changes where needed

Mental Health First Aid Training – individuals are trained to look out for and support those with mental health challenges within the organisation and guide businesses leaders to create an environment that supports good mental health

Mental Health Online Training – educating employees about common mental health conditions can help everyone in the organisation work together to support those who are struggling and make changes to improve mental health

Anxiety of any kind is debilitating. It can destroy productivity and takes the joy out of life.

At Shawmind, we’re here to help you enjoy your life and perform at your best through support groups, mental health training and professional advice. Get in touch for support or to find out more about our workplace mental health support.

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Can mental health training improve employability?

While unemployment rates in the UK have not risen as high as economists predicted at the start of the pandemic, there are still numerous job hunters who find themselves competing for (sometimes very junior) roles with highly qualified candidates who were made redundant during COVID.

And naturally, the more relevant qualifications you have the better your CV will look to potential employers. But aside from vocational or subject-specific qualifications, what qualifications and training can you get to boost your employability?

A big part of the recruitment process involves finding a candidate who not only has all the role-specific skills but who will also be able to build positive relationships with colleagues and support them in their lives to create a good company culture.

We believe mental health training is the perfect way to demonstrate these qualities to your potential employer.

Accredited Mental Health Courses

At Shawmind, we offer accredited Mental Health courses that will give you a recognised qualification and help you to demonstrate your commitment to workplace wellbeing.

One of the most popular courses on offer is our 2-Day Mental Health First Aid course that equips you with the skills you need to act as a Mental Health First Aider in your workplace supporting staff and the overall organisation with a range of mental health issues.

In our recently launches series of online mental health courses we offer 2 that are CPD accredited: Mental Health Aware that helps you develop an understanding of common mental health conditions and how they affect people at work and home; and Understanding Stress that allows you to spot the signs of stress and develop tools to manage it in yourself and others.

Online Mental Health Training

Our Understanding Series includes several non-accredited mental health training courses that can help you develop great skills for the workplace including how to manage anxiety in the workplace and how to prevent burnout in employees.

Platforms like Flourishzone are designed to develop both professional and wellbeing skills that can help you in your career. We have teamed up with them to give 1000 Shawmind followers free access to their app – get yours now on our Flourishzone page.

Since mental health training is not mandatory in most roles, you can give yourself a competitive edge and improve your employability by demonstrating a desire to continue learning and to look after the wellbeing of those around you.

All proceeds from our mental health training courses will go to our Headucation2025 campaign that aims to train 151,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support which in turn will improve mental health in children and young people.

We need all the help we can get to provide this crucial training – please support us by donating, booking one of our mental health training courses or buying a product from our store.

Donate to #Headucation2025

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