Students’ mental health is extremely topical at the moment, continuing to hit the headlines. We recently held a mental health awareness week in our school, just as I’m sure it is a hotly discussed topic up and down the country.
We need to make sure that students are able to cope, and ensure that their mental health is not adversely affected by external circumstances that can often be avoided or that can seem trivial to teachers and outsiders (but which, to that teenager, feel like the some of the most important things they have faced).
We have all experienced that internal voice that talks to us, repetitively, preying on fears, stresses, anxieties and worries, and which doesn’t seem to go away. But as we have grown up, we have hopefully managed to navigate the issues, silence the voice, or at least become more able to rationalise it.
For teenagers, issues around friendships, hormones, home life, navigating the day to day pressures of growing up and becoming more independent, all while being stuck in a ‘no man’s land’ between childhood and adulthood, can at times seem insurmountable and incredibly difficult.
But as teachers and support staff in school there are several things that we can do to relieve this burden and ensure that the students in our care are supported and listened to.
So, how can we help?
The suggestions and strategies that I suggest below are not new and don’t necessarily have a ‘wow’ factor – they are simple, common sense ideas that can work in ensuring that students who are facing, or have faced, mental health issues have someone they can talk to.
Pastoral support is absolutely key to ensuring that students have access to guidance and support. Having an individual that the student is able to speak to in confidence is essential – whether that’s a tutor, a mentor paid specifically to be a student wellbeing officer, a head of year or deputy head of year, a head of house or a teacher.
It doesn’t matter so much where that pastoral support comes from, as long as students are aware of to whom they need to go in order to get the support and guidance they need and deserve.
In schools, time is often pressured and hard to find, but if a student is distressed or upset then the best thing anyone can give is a bit of time to sit down with them and listen.
It’s not always easy in the insanity of a school day when everyone is busy and under pressure, and it can feel frustrating to have to take the time out when your to-do list is lurking ominously in the background, but finding a moment to speak to a student who is on the edge is one of the biggest things you can do. And it can really make a difference.
Know your students
Whether this is in classes, during tutor time, in student support or just from simply from seeing pupils around the school, it’s important to know your students.
Try to see break time and lunchtime duties less as a ‘must-do’ inconvenience, and more of an opportunity to get to know the students a little better.
If you have a designated area you will quickly know who ‘hangs around’ in that spot, and it creates the perfect opportunity to have a chat and find out more about these particular pupils.
In tutor time, greet the students by name every day and make an effort to ask them on a Monday what they got up to at the weekend or holidays. These dialogues aren’t time consuming and they make everyone’s day a little bit nicer.
I know that from these conversations I can ascertain whether a student has had a good or bad weekend and if they are likely to need a little pep talk or a reminder that they can pop and see me if they need to, or what more often happens, that they can have a chat with me in tutor time to let me know what’s on their mind.
In class, speak to the students when appropriate.
I teach English, which lends itself to asking students what they enjoy and why when they’re doing speeches or other written work, or what makes them really angry or upset. And this can be a good way to understand where they are coming from.
This links in really nicely to knowing your students.
Have you spotted a drop in output from a previously conscientious student? Have you noticed a change in their demeanour, or spotted an aura of unhappiness about them?
Are you aware of something that has happened in a pupil’s life that could potentially make them feel upset, depressed, uncertain? Or, is there a sense that something has changed or is different?
As I mentioned above, it’s important that you know your students pretty well in order to notice these changes. But if you do spot something that strikes you as unusual, a quick conversation to ‘check in’ can be transformative.
The student may or may not open up to you, but they will know that someone cares, and that can have a catalytic effect. This could mean that they then speak to friends or family, because they know that someone has seen that something is not quite right with them.
I know from experience that this does happen, and it does help.
Have an on-site professional counsellor to help students who have complex issues and problems with which they are finding it difficult to cope.
There are certain circumstances that students have to deal with that should, or even must, involve other people, and a counsellor is a good professional way to go about getting these more-complex issues dealt with.
On a wider scale, schools should make sure that they are open and honest and communicate effectively with the other professionals who can help students.
There are organisations (again, that are also stretched for capacity) to which students could and should be referred. By ensuring that we communicate effectively as a school we can help students together.
Make sure that information about a student is communicated as and when it is relevant, and to whom it is relevant.
This can be a note in the system on a student’s file that goes to all members of staff who have contact with that student. This means that all relevant people are informed, and are therefore able to support them appropriately.
As I said at the top of this list of strategies, these are not wow-factor ideas, but common sense practices that are cheaply and easily implemented.
Dweck, in her research paper Academic Tenacity, states: “Addressing the psychology of the student is critical and can galvanise students to seize the opportunities for learning that exist in their school environment.”
This supports the idea that student’s psychological wellbeing and mental health, if looked after and positive, will help them to have better academic opportunities and allow the students to get more out of school.
So, as well as the fact that we are human beings working to help other humans develop and grow, the idea of students doing better, and being academically better, really is a huge positive.Source: Teachwire
When is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day takes place on the 10th of October every year.
Source: World Health Organization
What is the history of World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day is an initiative that was started by the World Federation for Mental Health, which is a global mental health-centric organisation that has members and contacts in more than 150 different countries.
The Deputy Secretary General of this organisation, Richard Hunter, first introduced this initiative on the 10th of October, 1992.
Up until 1994, the event was just designed to generally raise awareness about issues relating to mental health, and didn’t have a specific yearly theme.
However, Secretary General Eugene Brody suggested the introduction of different yearly themes that would allow the event to adapt to the times and focus on topical issues. The 1994 World Mental Health Day was therefore celebrated with a theme for the first time: ‘Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World’.
Since then, themes have included ‘Mental Health and Human Rights’, ‘Emotional and Behavioural Disorders of Children & Adolescents’, and ‘Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses’.
What’s the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day?
The 2022 theme of this event is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. This year’s initiative will explore the ways that the Covid-19 pandemic has particularly damaged the mental health of people struggling with existing issues, such as long-term health conditions or racial discrimination.
This campaign seeks to raise awareness about populations who are at risk of poor mental health and unequal access to mental healthcare, and suggest ways to resolve these problems.
How can I recognise World Mental Health Day?
Though more people than ever are talking about their mental health, there is still a stigma in society attached to being open and honest about how you feel. This stops people from reaching out for help, as they may feel shame or embarrassment. To tackle this, recognise World Mental Health Day within your organisation.
See below our guide to honouring World Mental Health Day, separated by schools, businesses and communities:
- Organise a guided workshop for the students to process and express their feelings.
- Raise money for mental health charities with a fundraising event.
- Hire a mental health speaker to share their story with the students.
Who are the top speakers for World Mental Health Day?
Mental health speakers are the perfect additions to World Mental Health Day events. Specialising in wellbeing, mental resilience and emotional intelligence, our speakers can adapt their presentations to best serve your organisation or event.
The top speakers for World Mental Health Day include:
- Daniel Lerner – Instructor of New York University’s ‘The Science of Happiness’ Course
- Hope Virgo – Founder of the Dump The Scales Campaign
- Emma-Jane Taylor – CEO of The Works Company & Author of ‘Don’t Hold Back’
- Silvia Garcia – Former Global Director of the Happiness Institute for Coca-Cola
- Frankie Bridge – Author of ‘OPEN: Why Asking for Help Can Save Your Life’ & MIND Ambassador
Staffing crisis facing schools a union explains
Taking sick leave during the academic year will put schools in a worse situation, says a teaching union.
Schools lack a “dire” shortage of back-up teachers, according to the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).
In preparation for the academic year, 72 positions for teachers and teaching assistants were advertised across the states.
NASUWT’s Marina Mauger said teachers and teaching assistants were still in short supply in schools.
“I would say we are somewhat at crisis point, if there is a major sickness among staff or a Covid outbreak, we will have no cover, supply teachers are severely undersupplied.”.
“It probably is the worst I have ever seen for teaching assistants, it’s dire but then who would want to go into that job, it’s very bad rates of pay and little professional development.”
As of today, 61 jobs are advertised on the government website for the education and childcare sector.
A shortage of supply teachers and teaching assistants is being caused by the high cost of living in Jersey, according to Mauger.
“It’s incredibly expensive to live in Jersey, we can’t get teachers or nurses, we’re short in every industry because the island has become unattractive as a place to live and work, it’s just too expensive now,” she said.
Plan of action
After 72 teachers were lacking at the end of last term, the education minister noted there are fewer vacancies now.
An action plan should be in place soon, Deputy Inna Gardiner said.
“It is difficult to recruit teaching assistants for various reasons, and I met with two unions, and am looking for another union to work with.”
“We have challenges, we have difficulties, we are managing them and we need to work on this together.”
With excitement, we can announce that we are acquiring Exact Education Ltd. Through the acquisition, Humly advances its position even more in the English market. This means that Humly is now also creating a clear and strong position in the North East of England. Humly already sees a growth of the business in the south of England and in the Midlands.
Exact Education has a strong position in the North East of England. Through high-quality service, they have built strong and long-lasting relationships with both schools and candidates,” says Gustav Bild-Tofftin, CEO at Humly. In our work, people are a crucial part of a successful journey The team at Exact is motivated and wants to develop, both as individuals and as a company constantly, and that attitude is well in line with how we at Humly act.
By expanding the business with the experience and knowledge of the team at Exact, Humly has a presence in the southern, central and northern parts of England.
The company has good profitability and well-functioning processes in place. I am convinced that we will make each other stronger and be able to reach even more nurseries and schools with our digital marketplace, concludes Gustav Bild-Tofftin.”
“Exact Education is excited to announce they have joined forces with Humly, a group of companies specialising in education recruitment and childcare utilising bespoke and cutting edge technology systems, says Kirsty Lawrenson, co-founder of Exact Education.
The shareholders of Exact Education believe that the acquisition by Humly is a perfect match since the two companies share a similar ethos. The core values, reputation and prominence of Exact in the North East marketplace combined with Humly’s technological platform will provide an unrivaled experience for both educators and educational establishments.
Exact will now be able to offer their schools and candidates a more seamless and quality experience in Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN and Further Education.
The acquisition of Exact Education Ltd is an excellent add-on for Humly and plays nicely into our strategy for the UK market. We are happy to welcome Exact Education Ltd as part of the Humly team and excited to provide Humly’s great solution to more schools in the UK, says Eivind Bergsmyr, Chairman of the Board at Humly and Partner at Viking Venture.
Humly Group is a constellation of several companies with a long and joined experience within childcare & education recruitment. We combine great knowledge and local commitment with new technology. Together with over 70 people, we’re on a global mission to attract great educators, who make a positive impact in schools and nurseries. The result is a digital marketplace helping schools and educators to a perfect match. Humly has offices in Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Fareham and Gothenburg.
About Exact Education Ltd
Exact Education has become recognised as a ‘go-to’ supply teaching agency for primary schools, secondary schools, SEN schools, academies, multi-academy trusts, colleges and nurseries. As an externally audited recruitment business holding the highest standard in safer recruitment in the industry, REC Audited Education, Exact Education have been named as a supplier on the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Supply Teachers and Temporary Staff in Educational Establishments Framework. Exact Education offers high-quality and reliable service, supplying teachers, cover supervisors, lecturers, teaching assistants and nursery nurses to all areas of education. Exact Education’s head office is in Newcastle upon Tyne with additional branches in Durham and Tees Valley in the North East of the UK.
For more information
Gustav Bild-Tofftin, CEO Humly