We all know the basics of maintaining good mental health. We know that we should be eating healthily, getting regular exercise and socialising with our friends and family however we are able to do so. The coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of self-love and self-care for adults, but what about children’s mental wellbeing? How does school and its absence affect the wellbeing of the younger generations?
mentalhealth.org outlines evidence that it isn’t just screen time ratios, loneliness and lack of fresh air that are affecting the children in the last year. They write that “emerging evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic also suggests several other factors influencing the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people including: worries and concerns around their education (all ages), missing school (all ages), transitions and being away from school (primary school age), academic pressures (secondary school age), their career (young adults), and uncertainties about the future.” Stresses caused by missing school and the pressure of home learning has clearly had an impact on our children. It doesn’t matter how much fresh air and exercise they got during lockdown, missing their friends and feeling cut off from their community will have affected them in some way.
At The Mind Ed Trust, we’ve been working with schools in a number of ways, to help them develop and review the ways in which they look after their students’ mental health while at school. Last year, in partnership with Cambridge County Council, we launched the Blueprint for Schools initiative, which outlines eight key sections for growth and development to achieve a more mentally healthy environment for children and staff alike.
What is the Blueprint? The Blueprint is a map to making children’s mental health a priority in schools. The simple audit enables mental health champions to self-assess, and reflect on, the mental health provision evident in their school and to identify any areas of weakness. This means that where one school may excel at one area, it may need further thought and work to optimise another area of the school environment and procedures to promote overall wellbeing for its pupils.
How can it help? Every parent wants their child’s school to cater for their children’s education, physical safety and to promote their sense of identity and individuality, but how often is mental health (particularly in young people) simply not spoken of? At The Mind Ed Trust, we know that mental health is as important as physical health and that we should be creating a stable and non-judgmental environment in schools to encourage good mental wellbeing. We are also passionate about implementing appropriate systems of care in schools to ensure that every child feels heard and understood by their school. We want to encourage positive coping mechanisms in children and inspire them to talk about their own mental health which will help them assess and process their own emotions for the rest of their lives. The Blueprint identifies the areas of emotional nurture that each school is succeeding in and helps the school to assess where their focus areas for growth should be.
What are the eight sections? The Blueprint for Schools is designed to help schools improve the way they manage children’s mental health. The eight sections included in the blueprint are derived from the NCB’s whole school framework for emotional wellbeing and mental health (Weare, 2015) and the principles defined within with PHE’s whole school review tool to promote children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing (PHE, 2015). We have streamlined the findings of these studies into eight sections or steps which are:
How has the pandemic impacted children’s mental health? The isolation and frustration that we, as adults have felt over the last year has also been a problem for many children. mentalhealth.org reports that “lack of contact with others, boredom, not being able to attend school, financial worries and general uncertainty about the future are key factors impacting mental health and wellbeing.” Us adults have lived many years in comparative ‘normality’ before we experienced this pandemic, and we know that things will return to some form of acceptable life before long. We must remember that for a child of ten years old, he has lived a tenth of his life in some form or other of lockdown and social restriction. This year has felt very long to many of us but for the younger ones in our society, it has been a significant percentage of their lives.
Children have been born, weaned and learned to walk without yet meeting their wider family and for those old enough to remember who they should be missing, they are feeling it keenly. Humans are social creatures, and we learn these social skills early on. Of course, the children will recover. Of course, they will learn to share and play again. Of course, they will catch up with the curriculum, but if we as educators could do more to support their emotional development as they process these big fears and worries, shouldn’t we? Of course, we should and so we will.
Do we really make a difference? The Mind Ed Trust funded this Blueprint for Schools because we believe in the benefits of talking about mental health from a young age. Normalising discussing feelings and emotional events is the first step to helping children to be able to assess and deal with their own emotions. Even without the pandemic causing more upset and worry in our youngsters, schools ought to be able to confidently support any mental health concern or emotional problem that a child may exhibit. We have funded the blueprint to promote awareness of child mental health and to prompt positive changes in schools which supports good mental wellbeing. Good emotional wellbeing helps lead to overall wellbeing.
Schools obviously agree that more can, and should, be done to support the mental health of their staff and students because our blueprint has been downloaded over 200 times thus far. 70 schools from across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have completed the Blueprint in an effort to improve the support they offer for mental health amongst their students. Feedback from schools has also been positive regarding our eight sections and the practical help it provides to positively improve their faculty protocols.
The Mind Ed Trust funded this Blueprint for Schools so that it could be free to schools and institutions and we’re thrilled that it has helped so many schools in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area already.
To find out more about the blueprint for schools and our eight sections, click here. To see how The Mind Ed Trust is supporting mental health training, resilience, awareness and treatment programmes in schools, colleges and universities, take a look around our website.
The Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA), co-founded by Steve Mallen, Chair of The MindEd Trust, reaches another milestone today with the official launch of a national data and information resource for all organisations and individuals working towards better mental health and suicide prevention.
A news interview with The MindEd Trust Chair, Steve Mallen from last night. As we move through the current crisis, more than a million people have completed the training and awareness programme created by the Zero Suicide Alliance which was co-founded by Steve. The Covid pandemic has galvanised our society around wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention to an extent never before seen. Our kindness and understanding on these issues will be critical in weathering the current storm and facing the difficult challenges of the future. Please share.
The current crisis has highlighted the importance of looking after our mental health and wellbeing. Co-Founded by The MindEd Trust as a legacy to Edward Mallen, who was lost to suicide in 2015, the Zero Suicide Alliance suicide awareness and training resource has now reached more than 1 million people. We are doing all we can to support those in distress both now and in the future.
As the current crisis continues, The MindEd Trust continues to strive for better mental health for young people. The Trust is pleased to introduce "A Blueprint for Mental Health Provision in Schools" recognising and realising the incredible and dedicated efforts of Tom Hughes of Cambridgeshire County Council, supported by Danielle Robyn of Deearo Marketing.
The Covid-19 crisis requires a concerted, national effort to protect the wellbeing of those suffering from trauma and mental illness. MindEd Trust Chairman, Steve Mallen, representing the Zero Suicide Alliance, is pleased to have been invited to participate in this specially convened group.
In these challenging times, it can be hard to moderate our emotions and look after our psychological wellbeing. The Government and the NHS have accredited a Thrive app to help us all navigate both the current crisis and life in general. Look after yourselves everyone. Be good, be clever, be safe and be well.
Please read. You have time. This excellent editorial provides an insight into the impact of the Covid crisis on the health of young people, whilst also exploring how the current situation is creating profound worry and uncertainty. The piece also explores coping strategies and recommendations for well being. The MIndEd Trust remains committed to improving the health of young people through and beyond this crisis.
The current crisis has severely disrupted the lives and stability of millions of children and young people. Now, more than ever, we must pay especial attention to the wellbeing of the next generation. Please take a moment to study these guidelines. What happens when we are young resonates throughout life, so let's do our utmost to support those who will have to weather this crisis and then grow up in the shadow of Covid-19.