Thoughts & Ideas

How can teachers help students with mental health issues?

After parents and carers, teachers spend more time with children than anyone else which puts them in a perfect position to identify problems and help children solve them. Particularly with mental health, teachers are in the unique position of being able to identify, education and support students with mental health challenges.

With 1 in 6 school-aged children struggling with a common mental health condition, what can teachers do to help?

Spot the signs of mental health struggles

Knowing what signs of deteriorating mental health to look out for in children can help teachers to intervene (or instruct another authority to) before the child’s mental health reaches dangerous levels.

Make appropriate referrals

While teachers are an integral part of the process, there is no expectation that they are the whole solution to improving mental health in children: in many cases, teachers will need to signpost them to other resources or refer them for professional support.

The key here is that they make appropriate recommendations even before children reach a stage where they need clinical support – simply recommending some popular mental health resources for the children themselves can be a huge help for a student who is starting to struggle.

Facilitate mental health support in the classroom

Knowing what factors make a child more likely to develop a mental health condition can enable teachers to make adjustments in the classroom that can prevent conditions from developing further. E.g. if you know a child has recently been through a large transition like moving house, you can reduce the number of changes you make within the classroom that can contribute to their stress and anxiety.

Create a safe space to discuss mental health issues

While it may have lessened over the last few years, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health which can hold both adults and children back from talking about their struggles. Every year in February, we run our #SockItToStigma campaign which aims to get children openly discussing mental health and strengthen the notion that it’s ok to talk about it. Teachers need to continue this throughout the rest of the year so that students will be more likely to open up to staff and friends about mental health struggles and seek support.

Of course, teachers cannot do any of this without the proper training. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the existing children’s mental health legislation enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The importance of mental health training for teachers

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

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

Why do teachers need mental health training?

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

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

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

What will mental health training help teachers do?

Our mental health training for teachers will help them to:

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

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

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

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What causes mental health problems in schools

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

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

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

Bullying

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

Abuse

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

Bereavement

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

Substance abuse

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

Difficult home situations

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

Moving house or school

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

Pre-existing conditions

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

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

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

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

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Top 10 Children’s Mental Health Resources

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

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

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

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

1. Children’s Mental Health Books From Trigger Publishing

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

2. Sock It To Stigma Mental Health Resources

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

3.“We All Have Mental Health” Video

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

4. MeeToo Peer Support App

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

5. Childline “For Me” App

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

6. Fink Cards

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

7.Anna Freud #SelfcareSummer Packs

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

8.Stress Relieving Activities from Calm Zone

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

9.YoungMinds Mental Health Guides

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

10.The Mix Mental Health Support

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

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

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

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How to look after men’s mental health

In the UK, around 1 in 8 men have a common mental health condition and 3 out of 4 suicides are committed by men. Why, then, do so few men take time off work for mental health challenges like low mood and depression?

Stigma.

While stigma still exists for all mental health challenges to some degree, it is arguably more prevalent around men’s mental health. In many cultures, males are meant to fulfil a traditionally masculine role, and any admission that they need help may be perceived as a sign of weakness. As a result, men are more likely to turn to substance abuse when struggling with mental health which can lead to them being categorised as addicts rather than as somebody struggling with mental health problems.

One of the best ways to reduce the stigma around mental health for men is to talk about it. Over the past few years, more and more male celebrities have been sharing their own mental health stories to help others understand that it’s ok to talk and seek help.

Men’s mental health role models

Dwayne ‘The Rock Johnson

Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, depression doesn’t discriminate … The key thing I found is … especially for us as guys….you gotta talk about it, you’re not alone.

Steven Gerrard

“I think the key to it all is never keeping it in and never thinking that’s the right thing to keep it in”

Ryan Reynolds

“I tend to get pretty depressed and I have some issues with anxiety and things like that”

Freddie Flintoff

“The hardest thing for me was talking”

Michael Phelps

“I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody”

Olly Murs

“Underneath it all I was just worrying about what was going to happen and I was actually depressed”

Where can you find support for men’s mental health?

We believe the key to supporting any mental health condition is in early intervention – i.e. finding support as early as possible before your mental health can deteriorate to suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Research has shown that men are more likely to seek mental health support if it is made available online, anonymously and at any time of day, therefore our recommendations focus on support methods that meet those conditions.

Support groups & forums

We host a monthly ManCave event designed to provide a safe non-judgemental space for men to come together and discuss mental health. You can come along to seek advice, share your own experiences, provide support for other men, or at first simply join with your camera and microphone off to listen to the session and know that you’re not alone.

You can also join our free Health Unlocked community to get tips and discuss problems with others in an anonymous online forum.

Mental health apps

Shawmind are working with Flourishzone to improve the mental health and wellbeing of 1000 people in the UK via their AI-powered wellbeing app. Flourishzone provides you with your own confidential world where you can develop whatever skills you like including resilience and practical mental health skills.

Support lines

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) have a helpline and webchat you can use from 5pm to midnight 365 days of the year. CALM are dedicated to supporting men who are feeling suicidal or who need to talk for any reason. Quite accurately they proclaim “Being silent isn’t being strong.”

Men’s mental health tips

Men need to look after their mental health as much as any other individual but it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some tips to help you look after your mental health:

  • Get plenty of exercise – even a short walk can massively improve your mental wellbeing
  • Talk regularly to friends and loved ones to maintain human contact (and help each other spot when something changes!)
  • Make time for yourself even if you have a job and/or family to look after – you can’t care for anyone else if you’re not first taking care of yourself
  • Eat and drink well – your physical health can have a huge impact on your mental health and vice versa so looking after both is key!

If you or a man you know needs support with mental health, feel free to come to one of our events or send us a message via WhatsApp.

Mental health is not a weakness. But without early intervention it can become much more serious. Help us in our mission to support mental health by donating or participating in one of our training sessions.

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Signs of anxiety to look out for in children

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness or fear that, in many situations, is normal to experience – however when you feel this way most of the time it can be debilitating and massively impact how you function on a day-to-day basis.

As adults, it can be incredibly difficult to identify and manage anxiety. So, just imagine what it feels like for a child who is struggling with anxiety themselves.

What factors put children more at risk of anxiety?

While anxiety can arise for seemingly no reason, there are some situations that more often lead to children developing anxiety:

  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • Bereavement
  • Substance abuse
  • Divorce or difficult home situation (e.g., frequent arguments between parents)
  • Moving house or school
  • Pre-existing conditions such as ADHD or autism

Signs of anxiety in children

With children spending seven hours a day at school, here are some signs of anxiety that teachers should look out for:

  • 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

What to do if a child in your class has anxiety

  • Have someone in the school start a conversation with them – preferably a teacher or teaching assistant with mental health first aid or ELSA training
  • Talk openly about anxiety in the classroom to reduce the stigma around mental health – you can use our Sock It To Stigma classroom materials to help you
  • Talk to the child’s parents and refer them to professional support if appropriate

According to the latest research, one in six UK school children have a probable mental health disorder. Aside from parents, teachers are the adults that children spend most of their time with during the day. It is crucial that anyone who works with children can recognise the signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health and, more importantly, that they know how to take appropriate action. But with no compulsory mental health training, this task can feel overwhelming and difficult.

Our Headucation 2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025. Your school could be eligible for fully-funded mental health training. Get in touch with our team to find out more.

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Why think about mental health first aid in the workplace?

We know we talk about mental health first aid in the workplace a lot, but it is increasingly important for businesses to make sure they are doing everything they can to look after their employee’s mental health. Here’s why.

Improve productivity

Staff suffering with mental health conditions may find it hard to focus and carry out day-to-day activities. There has also been a rise in presenteeism, particularly in 18-29 year olds, where employees will not take time off to deal with mental illness and will instead continue to work either at a poorer level or until they burnout completely.

Mental health conditions that are not dealt with early on can lead to more severe situations where employees end up taking extended time off.

In 2019/2020 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health, according to the HSE’s Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain report 2020.

A mental health first aider is equipped to spot when someone is showing signs of depression, stress or anxiety and can step in before it becomes a problem that has a huge impact on their day-to-day productivity.

Improve staff morale

Someone suffering with a mental health condition like anxiety or paranoia may cause them to doubt themselves, take criticism personally, and need constant approval for even minor tasks – none of which is good for the overall staff morale. By having Mental Health First Aiders in your business, you can spot when people are struggling with anxiety and put practices or processes in place to improve their self-esteem and support their mental health.

Save money

It is estimated that poor mental health at work costs the UK economy up to £70bn each year. This is because untreated mental health conditions lead to poor productivity, presenteeism, absenteeism and high staff turnover.

However, research conducted by Deloitte found that businesses who invest in supporting employee mental health get an average of £5 back for for every £1 spent on things like Mental Health First Aid training, Employee Assistance Programmes and other mental health training.

Attract and retain top talent

While only 42% of employers believe that workplace mental health strategies are important to job hunters, research has shown that 88% of professionals consider it when searching for new roles.

Research has also shown that mental health support at work is vital when it comes to keeping staff. Businesses who actively look after their employee’s mental health could retain 78% of 18-24-year-olds who leave, 42% of their overall workforce and 25% of their critical staff. (Source)

Investing in employee mental health will help your business grow and make sure that employees enjoy working for you. Get started with our Mental Health First Aid training.

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For more support with mental health strategies in your workplace, get in touch with our team.

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Help with Health Anxiety

Health anxiety (or hypochondria) is when you become obsessed with the idea that you are – or will be – physically ill. Worrying about your health can lead you to miss out on experiences in your life and even develop physical symptoms.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable to be more aware and wary of physical illnesses – however if you are experiencing so much anxiety about your health that you are struggling to focus on anything else, you may want to consider seeking help.

Health anxiety symptoms

You may be struggling with health anxiety if you:

  • Visit/call your GP regularly
  • Worry that medical tests and doctor’s examinations may miss something wrong with you
  • Frequently check yourself for signs of serious illness and self-diagnose
  • Constantly worry about your physical health
  • Obsessively research health information online
  • Avoid reading, watching or listening to things that talk about physical illnesses (e.g. medical dramas, case studies, etc)
  • Live your life as if you were ill even when you’re not – taking sick days, avoiding physical activity, not travelling far from home

Physical symptoms of health anxiety

Health anxiety can also manifest in several physical symptoms brought on by continuous stress and worrying, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic attacks
  • Dry mouth
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Aching body and muscles

Help with health anxiety

There are a few different ways you can manage your health anxiety

  • Write down and challenge your thoughts – rather than letting worries build in your mind, jot them down along with some reasons why they might not be true e.g. “I’m getting lots of headaches which means there’s something wrong with me” leads to “headaches are often a sign of stress” which in turn leads you to question what’s causing stress and address it.
  • Keep busy – when you feel the urge to check yourself or research illnesses, go for a walk or do an activity that keeps your mind distracted.
  • Face your fears – if there’s a part of your life you’ve been avoiding (such as exercise or travel), start to introduce these back into your routine to gradually become more comfortable doing them and teach your brain that these activities aren’t dangerous.
  • Talk to someone about your health anxiety – talk to a friend, your workplace mental health first aider or use services like our Breathe Café Online to get support from trained volunteers.
  • Talk to a professional – if these self-help ideas don’t work to relieve your health anxiety over time, contact a GP or mental health professional for more support.

 

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.

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BreatheUni: What are Toxic Relationships and How to Deal with Them?

By Anisa D., MSc Health Psychology Student & Nazia U., MSc Psychology Student and Volunteers

 

Toxic relationships are broadly defined as ones that are repetitive, mutually destructive and have unhealthy patterns that cause more harm than good for both parties. Toxic relationships can be with friends, family and/or your partner.

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