Mental Health and Wellbeing
More than 1 in 10 children (age 5-10) have a diagnosable mental health condition - that's around 3 children in every class. At The Hayes, we believe that early intervention and support is key in giving our children the best start in life. We have a vital role to play in supporting children's mental health by teaching them the skills they need to be aware of their own emotions, to regulate these effectively and to provide support to them in their times of need.
What is mental health?
We all have mental health. Our mental health affects how we feel, think and act. It refers to our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Our mental health can change on a daily basis and over time, and can be affected by a range of factors. It is important that we look after our mental health in the same way that we would take care of our physical health as our state of wellbeing affects how we cope with stress, relate to others and our ability to make good decisions. It also massively affects the quality of relationships that we have with others. A good sense of mental health enables children to cope with challenges as they arise, be resilient, hold a positive sense of self esteem and feel confident.
What can affect mental health?
There are a number of risk-factors that can negatively affect a young persons mental health for example experiencing traumatic events (abuse, bullying, violence), changes in relationships (divorce, separation, bereavement) or broader societal issues (discrimination, poverty etc.) Some people face more of these than others making them more likely to experience mental health difficulties.
However, there are also protective-factors which are things that can be put in place to support a sense of positive mental health and this is where school has an important role to play. By teaching children social and emotional skills to help them cope in times of difficulties we develop their resilience, confidence and their ability to manage their emotions. We also promote a sense of belonging as part of our Hayes community, provide positive and nurturing relationships with teachers and school staff and other pupils and seek to reduce school based risk factors such as bullying through robust policies and procedures. Children spend a significant proportion of their day in school making us an ideal environment to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing and to identify when a child may be in need of some additional support.
How does The Hayes support children's Mental Health and Wellbeing?
As part of our RSHE curriculum, children are introduced to the concept of healthy lifestyles (physical and mental) from an early age. The skills taught in this aspect of the curriculum are intertwined in other aspects of the broader curriculum and school life. Each year we hold a 'children's mental health awareness week' where, through assemblies and class activities, we focus on an specific aspect of keeping mentally well. This year the theme was 'Growing together' and all staff and children wrote a promise on leaf that outlined one way that they can support others to grow emotionally or they wrote an action that they were going to take to support their own emotional growth.
Our staff invest in building strong relationships with children and stress that they are an important and valued member of our school community. We seek to remove stigma around mental ill health by raising awareness and make sure that our children know that help is available to them if they are struggling emotionally. Staff are well trained to understand the risk factors that may affect children's mental health and identify mental health needs early and sign post to where children and families can get support.
We have also recently begun to work with the children and staff on the NHS recommended '5 ways to Well being' to ensure we are taking an evidence based approach.
There is a staff Mental Health working party who meet monthly to ensure wellbeing remains a top priority and we are in the process of training some of our pupils to become Mental Health Champions to ensure our approaches to Mental Health and Wellbeing are co-constructed with our children.
I am worried about my child's Mental Health. What Can I do?
As a first point of call, we would always encourage parents/carers to discuss their concerns with your child's class teacher. They will listen non-judgementally and offer support and information about a possible way forward. We are able to support children in a number of different ways with challenges that they may be facing. For example, we could refer to our Emotional Literacy Support Advisors (ELSAs) for a targeted programme of 1:1 support. We may recommend a 'Circle of Friends' intervention to support children who may be feeling isolated or lonely. Alternatively, The Hayes is also proud to have 2 fully trained Mental Health First Aiders (Mrs Rich and Mrs Olley) who would be happy to meet with concerned parents to provide information and support. If considered necessary we may refer to outside agencies for further support such as Early Help, play/drama therapists or young carers for example. In some instances, with parental consent, we may make a referral to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for specialist assessment and support. The most important thing is that you talk to us. Let us know your worries and together we can plan a programme of support to help you and your child.
It's the school holidays. Who can I turn to for help?
Primary care services such as your family GP are always on hand to support children experiencing Mental Health difficulties. This would be our recommended course of action if you are concerned about your child's emotional health and development. However, there are also a number of external agencies including charity and voluntary organisations who can provide exceptional support to families in crisis. You may wish to reach out to some of the following organisations: