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Mental Health and Well-being

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Mental Health and Well-being

This has been written for us by Dr Tina Rae, an HCPC registered Educational and Child Psychologist, Author and Educational Consultant.

The Department of Education and the Mental Health Foundation define a mentally healthy young person/child as one who can:

  • Develop psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually
  • Initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships
  • Use and enjoy solitude
  • Become aware of others and empathise with them
  • Play and learn
  • Develop a sense of right and wrong
  • Face problems and setbacks and learn from them

Students with emotional problems are not always easy to identify.  Those who exhibit significant behavioural issues tend to gain a higher profile for obvious reasons, than those whose unmet emotional needs or problems, cause a sense of isolation and withdrawal from the learning process. 

These are the students who, without the appropriate support structures and systems, may well fall out of education altogether.

Identification of students with mental health issues, and those at risk of disengaging from the learning process, can be made with a number of standardised and non-standardised measures. For example:

  • PASS (Pupil Attitude to Self & School)
  • Emotional Literacy Assessment & Intervention (Southampton Psychology Service)
  • The Behaviour Survey Checklist (Jolly & McNamara)
  • Emotional Literacy Assessment & Intervention package
  • Mood and feelings questionnaire (MFQ)
  • Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ)

These provide an initial screening in order to highlight the students most at risk, and provide an evidence-based means of designing the most appropriate intervention.

What is vital, is that ALL young people have access to a well-being curriculum which supports the development of coping strategies, protecting their overall mental health.

Students can be taught calming techniques such as relaxation strategies and the use of positive self-talk.  They can develop individual scripts for themselves when they feel anxious, threatened or upset, and make use of these in such situations.  For example, “I’m aware that this piece of work is really hard for me; I’m now going to take some deep breaths, calm down and then read through the task more slowly, bit by bit” etc.

Students can also be taught assertiveness skills and the use of “I” messages or being able to state their needs and concerns in a more assertive way.  For example, “I feel very angry about this activity as I find it difficult, it’s too hard for me at the moment”; “I feel very angry when you don’t listen to me”; “I don’t like having to feel this way about my work.” etc.

Students need to access evidence- based interventions such as Mindfulness and CBT approaches, as these will also build protective factors. See Building Positive Thinking Habits Increasing Self-confidence and resilience in young people through CBT Author: Tina Rae (2016) Publishers: Hinton House

However, you must also look after your own mental health, if you are to be an effective role model for young people. Try the following 20 session training programme to support you in this process The Wellbeing Tool Kit (Part 2) for Professionals working with children and young people – A Programme of professional development to promote and maintain resilience and staff effectiveness Author: Dr Tina Rae (2016) Publishers: Nurture Group Network.

For information on this subject by Dr Tina Rae and similar resources, click here.
For Nurture Group's website, click here.

To get in touch with a member of the Fresh Start in Education team, click here

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