The school recognises that mental health can be a significant issue for many people during their life. However, it also recognises that everyone has thoughts and feelings and understanding where these might come from can be useful to everyone. The school is clear that in mental health there is a strong parallel to physical help and that certain moods or thoughts may come and go. The following definition of mental health is considered useful;
“It is not just the absence of a mental health condition. It is a state of well being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (World Health Organisation, 2004)
The school recognises that there is a spectrum of need with regards to mental health in the school and that some students require more specialist help than others. However, there is still information that is universally shared. The school also recognises that the vast majority of employees in the school are not trained therapists. However, the school recognises that there is a difference between therapy and “psycho-education” and the latter, the teaching and sharing of information about mental health, is something that the school can provide. This in itself can be of benefit to students.
The school believes that that is healthy to talk to students about their mental health as it helps people to understand their own emotions. It also recognises that there can be stigmas attached to the idea of mental health and aims to challenge these.
Information Sharing with Students
Information on mental health is shared in a variety of ways including displays around the school, assemblies and PSHE lessons. This is information that is shared with all students and will often signpost where further information or support is available. More personalised information and support for individuals is provided by key staff in the school, including Learning Relationship Coordinators (LRCs), Heads of Year and other pastoral staff. However, the school recognises that a student is most likely to share concerns with someone with whom they have a good relationship so information is available to all staff, especially, for example, tutors.
Information Sharing with Parents and Carers and External Agencies
The school recognises that it is vital that parents and carers are informed of any mental health concerns raised in school and the best support for any individual comes from those around that individual working as a team. However, there may be times when students are empowered to talk to their parents or carers first as having some control can enable students to manage their emotions more effectively. The school will also help or make referrals to local NHS mental health support if requested by a student or parent. The local service is known as EWMHS (Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health Service).
The school believes that the single biggest support it can provide to the school community is to be an open one in which students know they are being listened to. The school also advocates the idea of active listening, which it defines as engaged conversation which allows another to be listened to in a positive way.
The school also recognises the following ideas as ones that can help support everyone in their mental health;
Stay connected, talk and listen. The more you make connections with others the more connected you will feel.
Give your time and presence. The more we do for others the better we tend to feel.
Take notice of the small things. The more you remember and spot the simple things that give you happiness the more positive you will tend to feel.
Keep learning. The more challenges and opportunities you take the more resilient you feel. You may also surprise yourself.
Be Active. Physical activity can really help with your mood.
In general terms staff are encouraged to speak to students and other staff if they are worried about an individual. Information about the student might come directly from the student, from home or be seen in behaviour or mood changes. Ideally the student will be met somewhere there is unlikely to be interruptions with someone they trust. It is also recognised that one meeting is not likely to resolve or even improve an issue, though it might, but this is fine. The aims of the meeting with a student may vary and may be to explore performance in school, check whether an individual needs help, to give information, help with an immediate crisis and/or to allow an individual a space to talk about feelings. In line with the idea that most staff are not trained mental health professionals they are reminded that their role is not to diagnose or “solve” the problem: their role is to listen, understand and offer their presence.
Mental Health Examples
The school recognises that each individual student is unique and that their mental health may be experienced in various ways. However, it also recognises that often issues may cluster around a general theme, although some students may experience more than of these themes at a particular time. These include but are not limited to;
Managing Loss and Bereavement
Brief Description of Some Common Mental Health Issues
Anxiety is a general condition which involves feelings of insecurity or fear. Feelings of anxiety are very normal and usually very healthy: it is natural to react to anything that threatens us and anxiety is one way our bodies help us to get ready to respond to these threats. However, for some people these feelings of worry or insecurity can be excessive or disproportionate. This is when anxiety can be a mental health problem and can have a severe impact on day-to-day living.
As well as the unpleasant feelings anxiety can also affect people in physical ways such as hyperventilating, rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea, head ache, insomnia, confusion and lack of concentration.
Eating issues can relate to a number of conditions including anorexia (also known as anorexia nervosa), bulimia and binge eating. Anorexia is a condition in which an individual loses weight through significant restrictions in food intake. Bulimia is a condition which is characterised by binge eating followed by purging (getting rid of food from your body). Binge eating is a condition in which an individual has periods of excessive eating.
There are a number of factors which might contribute to an eating issue and whilst girls are more likely to suffer from one of them, an increasing number of boys are also affected. Some of the symptoms associated with eating issues include spending a lot of time thinking about your weight or food, limiting food or getting rid of it by being sick or using laxatives, exercising too much, mod changes, feeling cold or dizzy and if you are a girl, not having periods.
Depression or low mood is another common mental health issue. Everyone has feelings of being down but for some people they can last a long time and do not always seem to have an immediate or obvious cause. The feelings associated with depression or low mood can vary but can include a sense of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and frequently feeling low.
The symptoms of depression and low mood are difficult to predict as many people react in different ways but can include feeling tearful, not enjoying or taking part in things you would normally do, losing your appetite or over eating, and either insomnia or sleeping a lot.
Anger is a natural emotion and can be a very helpful one. However, for some people it can be difficult feeling to manage. Anger can affect both your body and your mental state. For example, it can make you feel hot and make your muscles tense or you could feel nervous, embarrassed or irritated. Anger can also affect your behaviour and you might notice you are in more fights, your shout more, you may break things or self-harm.
Managing Loss and Bereavement
Loss is an inevitable experience in everyone’s life. Bereavement is the word used to describe the death of someone who is close to you. Loss is often described in “stages” but it is important to recognise that these stages are not inevitable and everyone experiences them differently. However, the stages often linked to grief and loss are denial (not believing it has happened), anger (which can be directed at anything), bargaining (wanting to do anything to make the loss not to have happened), depression (feeling low about the loss) and acceptance (this does not mean that you are happy with the loss, just that you have come to terms with the reality of it)
It is a very natural reaction to mourn the loss of someone you have loved. However, some people find it very difficult to overcome a bereavement and may require more support. There are a whole variety of symptoms associated with loss and bereavement feeling numb, crying, feelings that you do not seem to be able to control, feeling angry or feeling guilty (“Why them and not me?” is a very common feeling). These emotions are also often very strong and may appear when you are not expecting them.
Psychosis is a condition in which an individual perceives the world differently to others, often characterised by delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there).
It is a potentially very serious condition and anyone experiencing symptoms, such as hallucinations, should seek immediate professional help. For people who may be with someone who may be psychotic it is helpful if you do not “play along” with psychosis, for example by pretending that a hallucination is real.
Relationship issues is a broad term which covers a whole range of ideas. Relationships are a very important element of our lives but sometimes they go wrong. They might relate to family, friends or people you have to work with in school.
Self-harm is when someone does something that deliberately damages their own body. It is usually used as a way of trying to cope with a powerful emotion or a way of trying to show how that emotion is affecting the person. Some people who self-harm may also have suicidal thoughts, but just because someone is self-harming this does not mean that they are suicidal. Self-harm is relatively common, and more common in young people. It is estimated that about 1 in 10 young people harm themselves at some point.
Self-harm can be done in a variety of ways such as cutting, burning, punching or poisoning. Often, but not always, the individual may want to try to keep the self-harm secret.
In school self-harm will always be reported but the first reaction should be one that checks the student is okay and/or needs medical help if they have injured themselves. For example, if someone has cut him or herself, the initial reaction should be to see if the injury is clean and/or needs treatment.
Some people have thoughts about wanting to end their lives. The reasons for this are highly varied. However, just because you think about killing yourself, it does not mean that you will.
If you are feeling suicidal, talk to someone. Making a connection to someone else can really help.
Staff in school take any disclosure about suicidal feelings seriously. It will always be immediately reported as a safeguarding issue. The Designated Safeguarding Lead is currently trained in Suicide First Aid.