Mental Health in Schools: Giving Children & Young People a Voice
Published: Thursday February 08 2024 by Lauren Fisher
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the importance of nurturing not only academic success but also the mental well-being of students cannot be overstated. Educators play an important role in shaping the overall development of children and young people.
In this blog post, aligned with Children’s Mental Health Week (5th February-11th February 2024), we will explore the significance of mental health in schools and discuss strategies to give children a voice in discussing their wellbeing.
Create a Safe and Nurturing Environment:
Mental health is a vital component of a child’s overall health and development. In a school setting, factors such as academic pressure, social dynamics and personal challenges can significantly impact a student’s mental wellbeing, therefore it’s important to create an environment where students feel they can voice their thoughts and feelings.
Establishing open communication in the classroom is essential; teachers can encourage students to share their thoughts and concerns during class discussions or through written reflections. This practice not only allows educators to gain insights into students’ perspectives but also empowers children to recognise the value of their voices.
Giving students the opportunities to take active roles in their mental health is essential. Introduce initiatives that encourage self-reflection and self-expression, such as journaling, art projects or mindfulness exercises. By giving children the tools to articulate their emotions, we empower them to understand and manage their mental health more effectively.
Encourage Peer Support:
Peer relationships play a significant role in a child’s life. Encourage the development of positive peer relationships and educate students about the importance of supporting one another. Implement peer mentoring programs or buddy systems that enable older students to guide and support their younger counterparts, fostering a sense of community and understanding.
Choose Your Words Wisely:
The words we use can significantly impact a student’s mental health. Be mindful of your language, whilst always striving to promote positivity and encouragement. It’s important to avoid stigmatising language and work to create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable discussing mental health without fear of judgment.
Implement Mindfulness Practices:
Introduce brief mindfulness exercises into the classroom routine. This could include short moments of reflection, deep breathing exercises or guided relaxation. These practices not only contribute to a positive classroom environment but also provide students with tools to manage stress and improve their overall mental health.
Educators may often need to be receptive to adapting teaching methods based on students’ individual needs, acknowledging that mental health varies among individuals. By promoting flexibility, educators signal that the classroom is a safe space where emotions are valued, laying the foundation for open dialogue and reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to express one’s feelings.
Encourage Student Feedback:
Actively seeking feedback from your students about their learning experiences and overall wellbeing will give you a general overview of how your class is feeling, as well as helping you to establish if there are any individuals who are showing signs of struggling with mental health and their wellbeing. To reduce the fear of speaking out and judgement, this could be done through anonymous surveys, which can be adapted to suit the child’s age. By valuing their opinions, you empower students to share their thoughts on what contributes to a positive and mentally healthy classroom environment.
Open Communication Channels:
Maintaining open communication channels between educators, parents and school seniors is crucial to ensuring a comprehensive support system for children facing mental health challenges. This collaborative approach ensures that everyone involved is aware of the child’s struggles, fostering a united front in providing the necessary assistance. Such open communication not only demonstrates a shared commitment to the child’s well-being but also encourages the child to feel supported and comfortable discussing their feelings openly with both educators and parents, creating a holistic support network that spans both home and school environments..
As educators, you have the power to leave a lasting impact on the lives of the students you encounter. By prioritising mental health, creating inclusive spaces and giving students a voice in discussions about their wellbeing, you contribute not only to their academic success but also to their overall growth as individuals.
You can click here to find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week and access a wide range of teaching resources and advice for supporting children & young people with their wellbeing.