Children's Mental Health Week: how you can help

Feb. 8, 2019
Lisa Fathers

Lisa Fathers

Director of Teaching School and Partnerships, Alliance for Learning

Approximately 70% of mental illnesses can be diagnosed before the age of 25.

This makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification and effective treatment. 

One in ten young people experience a mental health issue at any one time and many more struggle with challenges from academic pressure, social media, bullying, poverty, and bereavement.

Young people are not getting the support they need. That's why it's so important to come together in support of Children’s Mental Health Week by spreading the word in your school or organisation, as well as on social media. 

Children’s Mental Health Week was first launched by Place2Be in 2015, to emphasise the importance of children and young people’s mental health. This year’s theme is ’Healthy: Inside and Out’ and is aimed at encouraging children to think about how they look after their mental and physical wellbeing. 

The organisation has a plethora of resources, activities and ideas to help children and young people explore what it means to be healthy ‘inside and out’, available to access here

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Of course, this isn't a subject that is only important this week; these tools and resources are useful throughout your entire teaching or leadership journey, both for your own practice, and for engaging with parents and young people around the topic of mental health. 

I am excited to be a part of the national training team with Mental Health First Aid England, an organisation which seeks to make mental health a normal part of everyday conversations, to challenge the stigma and create a society that is literate in mental health. 

As a society, we have made huge strides forward in recent times with more and more people starting to recognise the importance of supporting positive mental health, promoting wellbeing and ensuring that when others experience mental distress or illness, they can get swift access to the support services they need.

The Alliance for Learning are working alongside Place2Be and other organisations such as 42nd Street and the Youth Sports Trust as part of the Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools Project. Part of this work involves supporting an initiative called 'The Daily Mile' where children run or jog for 15 minutes every day. 

This has been hugely popular in one of our schools, Stanley Grove Primary, with over one-hundred parents involved in 'The Daily Mile', having a huge impact on the wellbeing of the parents and pupils there.

"we seek to make mental health a normal part of everyday conversations, to challenge the stigma, and create a society that is literate in mental health. "

Here are some further steps that school leaders can take to introduce mental and physical health awareness in their school:

  • Appoint at least two mental health first aiders from the staff and create areas within school where young people can feel comfortable talking about their mental health
  • Invest in training on early trauma and attachment and ensure that pastoral staff have regular supervision
  • Encourage solution-focused discussion about workload and marking and show senior staff acting as role models (leaving school on time, being active, demonstrating good work/life balance) 
  • Consider involving the PE department in wellbeing discussions
  • Appoint student mental health ambassadors and invest in training them
  • Explore mindfulness and dedicate assemblies to looking at the links between mental and physical health
  • Embed a coaching culture so talking and relationships are valued

Students and staff have the right to wellbeing and health support in order to do a great job and be happy. By making simple changes to the school’s routine, everyone can feel the benefit.

Schools are the best place to get this right. As Abraham Lincoln said, “the philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.”

Keep talking about wellbeing and mental health and let’s make these topics part of our everyday conversations.


This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019 the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.


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