‘Talk, talk, talk about your feelings’
As Mental Health Awareness Week gets underway, teaching assistant Johanna Robinson discusses the many ways Springmead School supports pupils with their mental health, and why it is so important to encourage children to talk about how they feel.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines mental health as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”. However, here at Springmead School, we understand that mental health is far more subjective and nuanced than that, especially when applied to the pupils in our care. The children of today face unprecedented, ever-changing times as a result of the pandemic, quickly evolving technology and many other variables that we cannot predict or control. What we can do, though, is equip ourselves with a toolbox of strategies to support children (and indeed one another) as we navigate these challenges together.
We try to take a holistic approach in supporting our children mentally, both in and out of the classroom. Inside the classroom you’ll find:
- A Worry Monster – a small soft toy that allows children to write down their worries anonymously and post them into the Monster’s mouth to be ‘eaten’ (allowing staff a valuable insight into their pupils’ minds).
- Small class sizes and high staff to children ratios, giving them access to a trusted adult at all times. After all, a problem shared is often a problem halved.
- Frequent PSHE sessions and circle times, encouraging children to talk openly about their mental health and emphasising the importance of taking care of it.
Outside the classroom you’ll find:
- Regular ‘drop-in’ clubs, giving children the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the playground and seek a more mindful activity, alongside one-to-one time with an adult.
- A broad, award-winning spectrum of extra-mural clubs that prioritise emotional health as much as physical health; encouraging children to engage in a variety of hobbies and physical activities, scientifically proven to improve mental wellbeing.
- Close, two-way communication with parents, allowing us to support children continuously in their emotional development.
- A mental health policy that all staff are familiar with, interwoven into all areas of school life.
- Staff members undergoing ‘Thrive Licensed Practitioner’ training, allowing early interventions, mental health first aid, individual and group action plans and more.
- A working ‘hub’ in collaboration with other Forfar Education schools, enabling us to share best practice and learn from one another’s experiences.
Monday 15 May marked the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. Whilst we always try to encourage children to talk, talk and talk some more about their feelings, this week we will be pushing that incentive even further. Throughout the school there’ll be circle times and specialised PSHE lessons: the goal is to equip every child with strategies they’ll carry for the rest of their lives through these sessions, and for each child to know where to turn in crisis.
To raise awareness and encourage the children to ‘Move for Their Minds’, the whole school will be going for a ‘Wellness Walks’ while wearing a green ribbon, in honour of mental health week. The children will be encouraged to pay attention to how they feel, not just in their bodies but in their minds, before and after the walk: learning the basic principles of mindfulness at a young age.
All in all, we firmly believe in the ‘start ‘em young’ approach – the more we talk about mental health, the better!