As mental health and wellbeing becoming an increasing priority for schools, we’ve put together our top tips on how you can promote positive mental health in your classrooms.
1. Building awareness
Giving students the knowledge and awareness about mental health is the first step in forming a culture of positive mental health in school. A useful initial activity would be to have an assembly to form an open discussion about what students think mental health is and addressing the reality of mental health and its different forms. This concept could be rolled out termly and even extended out to the wider community by inviting parents to also attend. Parental involvement would aid in creating a sense of community, all dedicated to building awareness of mental health and wellbeing.
2. Tackling stigma
It’s important to go further than raising awareness of mental health in schools. Try to tackle the possible stigma and prejudices surrounding mental health in order to set the right tone and culture in your classrooms. This could also be addressed with a Q & A section as part of the assembly, so any thoughts or questions surrounding mental health can be answered. This will help students to be more understanding and compassionate to anyone who may be dealing with mental health issues.
3. Communication is key
Having a clear focus on mental health awareness in the classroom and school lets you have a basis for communication between you and your pupils. By openly addressing what mental health is you will build confidence in your students, allowing them to feel more comfortable when talking about mental health. The more that communication is encouraged will ultimately help maintain a positive wellbeing ethos in the school.
4. Promote life skills
Actions can often be better than words, therefore it’s useful to introduce life skills to students to help them to sustain positive mental well-being which they can take with them for throughout their lives. For example, meditation is a popular technique that some schools have adopted. Lessons can also be adapted with activities for students to help them learning how to, relax, self-manage, and be compassionate. These activities will give students the tools for both their own well-being and aiding others.
5. Assign dedicated roles
Alongside the first four tips, it’s a good idea to assign a dedicated ‘Mental Health Champion’ within the school. This person will have the task of ensuring mental health awareness is maintained and that any activities you should decide to integrate into school life are acted on. Also, publicly assigning this role to a member of staff within the school gives everyone a clear point of contact should there be any questions, suggestions or concerns about mental health and wellbeing.
‘…an excellent presentation…with some excellent signposts [my] job will now be so much easier’ - Alison Keyes, Pupil and Family Support Manager, Wren's Nest Primary School.
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About this author
Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.